Court denies appeal in Stasulis case

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PORTLAND (AP) – A divided state supreme court Tuesday denied a Litchfield man’s appeal of his consecutive sentences for the 2003 kidnapping and beating death of the 42-year-old owner of a Lewiston bar.

Roger Keene had argued that his Sixth Amendment right to a jury trial was violated when a judge, rather than a jury, decided that his 20-year prison term for manslaughter and 10-year term for kidnapping be served consecutively, rather than concurrently.

The Supreme Judicial Court’s 5-1 majority disagreed, saying there was no constitutional violation as long as each individual sentence fell within the statutory maximum for its crime.

In its 23-page ruling, the state supreme court addressed for the first time the issue of Sixth Amendment concerns regarding consecutive sentences.

Keene’s sentences were based on his probationary status and the seriousness of his crimes. The lone dissenter, Justice Susan Calkins, said a jury should decide those issues.

The case stemmed from the fatal beating of Keene’s girlfriend, Leslie Stasulis, a mother of five who died nine days after being found unconscious in the middle of Route 126 in Sabattus.

Stasulis was co-owner of Leslie’s Place, a bar at 339 Lisbon St. that still bears her name.

At Keene’s trial in Auburn, the jury found him guilty of manslaughter and kidnapping but was deadlocked on an attempted murder charge, which ended in a mistrial.

In his sentence appeal, Keene cited a line of U.S. Supreme Court decisions as well as the Maine supreme court ruling that Sally Schofield could not be sentenced to more than 20 years for manslaughter without a jury finding that her role in the death of her 5-year-old foster daughter was especially heinous.

The court gave short shrift to Keene’s appeal of his convictions, rejecting in a footnote his claims that the trial judge wrongfully denied his motions for a mistrial and a change of venue and should not have admitted an autopsy photo.

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