Lewiston man’s trial moved to Portland

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AUBURN — The trial of a Lewiston man charged with attempted murder in connection with the stabbing of his former girlfriend has been moved to Portland.

A judge granted a motion filed in Androscoggin County Superior Court by Cleveland Cruthirds, 26, to change the venue of his trial. Cruthirds, through his Portland attorney, John Paul DeGrinney, argued that during earlier jury selection, a “large majority” of the jury pool had some connection to the case, “causing an unusual amount of conflict of interest in jury selection.”

His trial had been scheduled to be held in October in Androscoggin County Superior Court.

Cruthirds’ former attorneys withdrew from the case. Following their requests, “a number of impressively prejudicial articles” were published in the local newspaper, DeGrinney wrote in his motion for change of venue.

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Cruthirds’ trial is scheduled to be held in Cumberland County Superior Court on April 8, with jury selection set to start on April 5, a court clerk there said.

In that county, Cruthirds’ case has received “substantially less” media attention, DeGrinney wrote in his motion.

Although the trial will be held in Portland, Andrew Matulis, assistant district attorney for Androscoggin County, is expected to represent the state.

DeGrinney had argued his motion on Monday in judge’s chambers in Androscoggin County Superior Court, but the venue change wasn’t confirmed until the end of the week after a definite spot could be found for the trial in a different county.

Cruthirds remains in Androscoggin County Jail in lieu of $250,000 cash bail or $1 million property.

He had been transferred earlier to Maine State Prison in Warren after he reportedly planned to break out of the local jail with at least one other prisoner. Jail officials found evidence of the planned escape, including a broken window and hidden contraband.

He was arrested in 2011 and indicted in February on six charges stemming from the stabbing of his former “sometime”-girlfriend, Naomi Swift, 22.

Charges include attempted murder, elevated aggravated assault, aggravated assault and burglary.

Cruthirds has changed court-appointed lawyers twice, his trials repeatedly postponed.

A psychological evaluation found him competent to stand trial.

According to sworn statements in court records, Cruthirds attacked Swift with a knife, stabbing her repeatedly in the head, torso and arms. At the time, Cruthirds was freed on bail on a domestic violence charge and was prohibited from having contact with Swift.

Several days after the attack, Swift spoke with the Sun Journal and described Cruthirds’ attack in her Blake Street, Lewiston, apartment, stabbing her more than two dozen times.

According to Swift, she had been sitting in her apartment with another woman when Cruthirds broke down the door to the apartment and the one to her bedroom. He was in a rage, Swift said, because she had been talking on the phone to her husband, who was in prison.

According to a police affidavit, Cruthirds was also angry because Swift had been talking to her ex-boyfriend online. In a 911 call, Cruthirds could be heard shouting, “You cheated on me,” as Swift tries to explain her plight to an emergency dispatcher.

Swift was treated at Central Maine Medical Center for several days after the attack. During her hospital stay, she was deaf in one ear and unable to lift her right arm. One of her lungs had been nicked and she suffered cranial nerve damage.

cwilliams@sunjournal.com

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