Settlement reached in prisoner beating death

By Juliette Laaka | May 07, 2014

A settlement has been reached between the state and the widow of an inmate who was beaten to death while incarcerated at the Maine State Prison five years ago.

Janet Weinstein, of Connecticut, acting on the behalf of her late husband, Sheldon Weinstein, reached an agreement releasing the state, the Department of Corrections, and Corizon Inc., the medical agency at the prison, from further legal action in connection with Weinstein's death.

The state is set to pay Weinstein $100,000 in exchange for no further litigation, and under the terms Weinstein agrees to keep the matter confidential and not to publicize the fact the matter has been settled, according to the release and indemnity agreement.

Weinstein originally sought $1 million in damages when she filed an intent to sue in 2009.

The agreement was made in February 2014, about a month after a 34-year-old Bangor man pleaded no contest in Knox County Superior Court to causing the death of Weinstein.

John Thibeault, pleaded no contest to an aggravated assault charge Jan. 9 in connection with 64-year-old Weinstein's death and was sentenced to serve nine months in jail. In 2011, Thibeault had served a six-year stint at the Maine State Prison for robbery and was released.

Weinstein, who was confined to a wheelchair due to a broken leg, died as a result of multiple punches to his face and body, causing a ruptured spleen. He died four days after he told medical personnel at the prison he had been assaulted.

Thibeault was originally indicted for a charge of manslaughter, but his defense attorneys, Philip Cohen and Jeremy Pratt, reached a plea agreement with Assistant Attorney General Leane Zainea a day before jury selection was to begin. The full sentence is an eight-year sentence, but only nine months will be served. Thibeault will be on three years of probation upon his release.

Weinstein had been incarcerated at the Maine Correctional Center in Windham because he was serving two years in custody for sexual assault of a child in Berwick. At the center, he fell out of bed and broke his leg. Weinstein was transferred to the Warren prison eight days before his death because the medical resources were considered to be superior. Weinstein had Type 1 diabetes that required multiple daily insulin injections.

As a result of the death, the prison launched an administrative review while the Attorney General's Office and Maine State Police conducted a criminal investigation..

Prison Corrections Officer Joshua Bailey was fired and Sgt. William Robinson was demoted to a correctional officer as a result of the internal investigation at the Maine State Prison, according to a statement issued in 2009 by the Corrections Department.

During the plea hearing in January, Assistant Attorney General Leane Zainea said another inmate is said to have participated in the beating, and in court it was said inmates told investigators they had been given permission to "slap around" Weinstein.

Weinstein filed a notice of intent to sue the prison in 2009. Her attorney, Scott Gardner of Biddeford, filed the notice with the state alleging, "policy makers within the Maine Department of Corrections were deliberately indifferent to a culture of inmate violence in which jailhouse justice was meted out to inmates like Mr. Weinstein."

Courier Publications' reporter Juliette Laaka can be reached at 594-4401 ext. 118 or via email at jlaaka@couierpublicationsllc.com.

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Juliette Laaka
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Juliette primarily covers the cops and courts beat for The Courier-Gazette.

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