CASTINE — A Castine man Tuesday was ordered to serve 18 months in prison for drunken driving and manslaughter in the death of his best friend, Ronald Bakeman.
Justice Bruce Mallonee ordered Francis Spinazola, 56, to serve five years in prison but suspended all but 18 months. Spinazola will serve four years of probation upon his release.
Bakeman, 56, of Orland was pronounced dead at the scene of the Nov. 19, 2016, crash, which occurred on the Castine Road in Castine. The Hancock County Sheriff’s Office was the investigating agency.
Bakeman was not wearing a seat belt and was ejected from the vehicle, police said. Spinazola’s wife, Cheryl, was also ejected from the vehicle and injured but her injuries were not life-threatening, police said.
According to court records, Spinazola’s blood alcohol level was .15, which is nearly twice the legal limit.
Ellsworth attorney Robert Van Horn represented Spinazola. Van Horn did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
Bakeman, who had worked as a welder, left behind a girlfriend, a sister and brother-in-law, and his mother among others.
“It’s the sentence that I expected,” said Bakeman’s only sibling, Priscilla Robinson of Orland. “There was a plea arrangement. But we’re not happy with it, no. No amount of time is going to help this. He took a lot from a lot of people.”
Robinson said she and her brother, at nine years apart, weren’t close growing up but had gotten close as they grew older and lived in the same town.
Bakeman was a “high tech welder” and had been a union worker most of his life, she said.
“He had just such a sense of humor,” said Robinson. “He loved to make people laugh. He was a fun guy. I didn’t realize how many lives he’d touched.”
Robinson on Wednesday morning was preparing to visit her mother who is in an assisted living center to tell her about the sentencing.
“She doesn’t understand why he isn’t in prison now,” said Robinson.
“I never thought I’d have to go before a judge and tell him my deepest feelings about losing my only sibling,” said Robinson. “We’ve got to move on. Ronnie would want us to do that.”
Deputy District Attorney Toff Toffolon prosecuted the case.
District Attorney Matt Foster said his office put “a great deal of time and thought” into the case, which he described as “emotionally charged.”
“We negotiated with defense counsel before several different judges and did an exhaustive sentencing comparison with other cases with similar fact-patterns,” Foster said. “The sentencing judge agreed that the proposed sentence was appropriate given the many factors that the court is required to consider under the [sentencing] analysis.
“Mr. Spinazola received a five-year sentence with all but 18 months suspended and four years probation, which is the maximum probation for a Class A crime,” said Foster. “That sentence is well within the range of similar sentences for similar conduct.
“I also want to express my condolences to the victim’s family and loved ones. No jail sentence or any other punishment can ever repair the damage done here, but I hope that this resolution gives them closure and that they can recover some semblance of normalcy in their lives moving forward.
“Impaired driving is such a horrible risk that is taken too often and I hope that the publicity around this case has the benefit of making even one person think twice before getting behind the wheel of a vehicle after consuming alcohol or taking drugs,” the DA said.