AUBURN — A Minot man who went on a rampage last year, setting fire to his home and that of his estranged wife before ramming her minivan with his truck and attempting to run down a law enforcement officer was sentenced Wednesday.
A judge sentenced Michael Callahan, 45, to 20 years in prison with eight years suspended, plus a total of 12 years on probation.
Prosecutors dropped a charge of attempted murder.
Callahan, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, used a walker to help him enter and exit the Androscoggin County Law Library where he pleaded guilty to multiple charges and was sentenced.
The 20-year-sentence imposed by Justice MaryGay Kennedy was for setting fire to Callahan’s ex-wife’s mobile home in Mechanic Falls on May 24, 2013. On an arson charge for burning down his family’s home in Minot on the same day, he was handed a 10-year sentence, all suspended. On an additional arson charge, he was given a five-year suspended sentence. On six other felonies, including aggravated assault and reckless conduct, he was sentenced to five-year terms for each, all concurrent with the first arson charge.
When he is released from prison, conditions of Callahan’s probation will include no possession of alcohol or illegal drugs. He must undergo mental health and substance abuse evaluations and take all prescribed medications. He also must refrain from having dangerous weapons, including guns, and have no contact with his ex-wife, Laurie Callahan, and his two children.
She spoke at the sentencing Wednesday, saying she no longer cared about her ex-husband the same way he doesn’t care about her. She characterized the events of May 24 as a “nightmare” that is “burned into my memory.”
She said she couldn’t forgive his “heinous actions” and said there were no plausible or acceptable explanations for his behavior. She said she’d had “no doubt you would come after me. I knew it was only a matter of time.”
For five months, she and their two children “lived in constant fear,” she said. “We locked every door at all times. We left no one alone. We worried about who or what was around every corner. We lived in constant fear that you would violate the bail and the protection orders.”
And he did, she said.
“Your vindictive nature and your above-the-law attitude is what landed you back behind bars,” she said. “What kind of father intentionally burns down the family home?” she said. “What kind of father sets his children’s temporary home on fire?”
Then he smashed his pickup truck into her minivan in a church parking lot where she had driven in an effort to escape him.
“No father would choose to leave his children homeless and without a mother in a single day,” she said.
She said she had decided to divorce Michael Callahan even before he created a police standoff in 2012 during which he armed himself with an AK-47 and held a Maine State Police tactical team at bay for more than six hours, spraying the surrounding landscape with bullets before surrendering.
She said she would only feel safe for as long as her ex-husband remains behind bars.
Deputy District Attorney Andrew Robinson outlined the evidence and witnesses he would have presented had the case gone to trial.
He said witnesses would testify that Callahan had bought gasoline cans that morning, filled them at a gas station then bought a waterproof lighter. He concocted a story about needing the lighter for a camping trip, demonstrating to the prosecutor that he was behaving with purpose and calculation.
Witnesses would have placed him at his home at the time it caught fire as well as his ex-wife’s home in Mechanic Falls. Witnesses heard and saw Callahan’s truck ram his ex-wife’s minivan, Robinson said.
An Androscoggin County Sheriff’s deputy would have testified that he had chased Callahan’s truck with lights and siren on for a long time. After Callahan pulled over, the deputy approached the truck on foot, then Callahan backed up his truck in the deputy’s direction, before speeding off again after the deputy fired his gun at the truck.
Robinson called this “one of the most egregious cases of domestic violence we’ve seen come through our office.”
Yet, he noted that Callahan had no prior criminal record.
Callahan also was found by doctors to have mental illnesses as well as severe, acute intoxication on May 24, 2013, due to an overdose of Ambien, Xanax and other prescription drugs. “His cognitive judge and judgment functions were severely impaired by the combined effects of these medications,” Robinson said.
One doctor said Callahan had lesions on the frontal lobe of his brain due to his multiple sclerosis that could have affected his judgment, insight, planning and modulation of feeling, Robinson said.
Still, he said the state would have been able to show that Callahan would have understood the wrongfulness of his conduct on that day.
Defense attorney James Howaniec said a reasonable fact-finder could have found his client guilty at trial, but the defense would have demonstrated that Callahan had suffered from an abnormal condition of mind that day.
His overdose was so severe, he was in a coma for four days, Howaniec said.
He said the defense would have presented experts who would have testified that Callahan was under great stress and had attempted suicide through medication overdose.
That overdose could induce a “severe delirium,” Howaniec said, that was a “significant contributing factor to the actions of which” Callahan was accused, according to one of the experts.
Callahan had been on more than a dozen medications for his disease, some of which were experimental and are “known to have impacts that result in violence,” Howaniec said.
Callahan’s mental health had deteriorated so drastically from September 2012 until May 23, 2013, that Howaniec and one of Callahan’s doctors were “prepared to have him blue-papered,” or involuntarily committed to a psychiatric facility.
Howaniec and prosecutors met with a Superior Court judge where they reached the settlement agreed to Wednesday.