Bangor man to be sentenced for role in death of inmate

By Juliette Laaka | Jan 13, 2014
John Thibeault.

Rockland — A 34-year-old Bangor man who pleaded no contest to an aggravated assault charge Jan. 9 in connection with the 2009 beating death of a fellow prison inmate will be sentenced this week in Knox County Superior Court.

John Thibeault's hearing is scheduled for Friday, Jan.17. 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 man who died as a result of multiple punches to the face and body, Sheldon Weinstein, has a widow, Janet, who wants to be present at the hearing.

Justice Jeffrey Hjelm accepted a no contest plea for the aggravated assault charge and a guilty plea to a failure to appear charge from Thibeault. The defendant will be incarcerated for nine months in the Knox County Jail for the assault charge, and will serve three months consecutively for the failure to appear charge. 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.

The case, involving the beating death of a Maine State Prison inmate confined to a wheelchair, was postponed from October to allow the defense counsel, Jeremy Pratt and Philip Cohen, time to sift through information provided to them by the state just days before the original trial date.

Thibeault was a prisoner at the Maine State Prison in April 2009, when he was accused of causing the death of Weinstein.

Weinstien died of a ruptured spleen, according to the state medical examiner. He died four days after he told medical personnel at the prison he had been beaten up.

Zainea said she would have called witnesses at the trial, including inmates, who would testify they heard Thibeault describe the punches he threw at Weinstein, hitting him on the face and body.

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.

Thibeault completed a six-year prison term for robbery and was released on bail in 2011. He was a resident of Orono before going to prison, according to court records.

Janet Weinstein of Hartford, Conn., 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."

For now, this is only notice of intent to sue rather than a lawsuit, and Gardner said the civil case is on hold pending the results of Thibeault's trial.

Weinstein had been incarcerated at the Maine Correctional Center in Windham because he was serving no more than two years. At that center, he fell out of bed and broke his leg and was confined to a wheelchair. 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.

Weinstein was serving a sentence for sexual assault against a child.

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

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