PARIS – A 23-year-old man charged in the severe beating of a former Norway man last March was ordered to serve eight years in prison Monday.

James Randall Keene of 41 Morningside Drive in Fryeburg pleaded guilty in Oxford County Superior Court to elevated aggravated assault and two unrelated counts of aggravated cocaine trafficking. He also had his probation revoked from a 2007 case.

A charge of attempted murder was dismissed.

Justice Roland Cole sentenced Keene to serve eight years of a 20-year prison sentence, as well as six years of probation. Keene was fined $800 and given the same sentence to run concurrently on the drug charges, as well as a concurrent sentence of three years and one month for the probation revocation.

During his probation, Keene must not use drugs or alcohol, possess dangerous weapons, must attend substance abuse counseling, and have no contact with 21-year-old Philip Swanson, formerly Norway and now of Hamilton, Mass.

Keene and five others were indicted in June in connection with the March 29 assault of Swanson. According to police reports, Swanson was beaten with baseball bats, a pistol, and a beer bottle at a Lovewell Pond Road residence in Fryeburg, then taken to the dead-end Menotomy Road and assaulted further.

The assault occurred after a botched drug buy in Malden, Mass., on March 26, according to police.

Besides Keene, Ellen Caughey, 20, of Fryeburg; Luke Clough, 23, of Madison, N.H.; Michael Merrill, 24, of Albany, N.H.; Tyler Rogers, 21, of Fryeburg; and Richard Smith, 20, of North Conway, N.H., have been indicted on charges related to the assault.

According to police reports, Keene was not involved in the assault at Lovewell Pond Road.

Co-defendant Smith told police that Keene kicked Swanson in the head repeatedly and also hit Swanson several times with a baseball bat.

Assistant Attorney General David Fisher said Keene’s drug charges stem from an arranged purchase of cocaine from Keene. The sale was done within 1,000 feet of the Field of Dreams Municipal Athletic Complex in Fryeburg.

Fisher said about $3,500 and seven grams of cocaine were found during a search of Keene’s home.

The probation revocation terminated Keene’s probation from a 2007 conviction on charges of aggravated assault, aggravated criminal trespass, and aggravated criminal mischief. In that incident, Keene and another individual were accused of illegally entering a home in Brownfield, as well as assaulting a 48-year-old man with a rock, a 2-by-4 piece of lumber, and a chain and damaging his truck.

Assistant District Attorney Richard Beauchesne recommended that Keene serve 10 years of the underlying sentence, which Keene disagreed with.

“I don’t feel that what I did constitutes the time they’re trying to give me,” Keene said.

Keene said he went to Menotomy Road to pick up a friend, and didn’t kick Swanson in the head multiple times. He did admit to kicking Swanson in the face and selling drugs, but said the drugs in the residence were his girlfriend’s.

Keene’s girlfriend, 22-year-old April Louwers of Fryeburg, has pleaded not guilty to two counts of aggravated cocaine trafficking and denied the criminal forfeiture of $3,682 and a Smith and Wesson bolt action rifle.

Cole said Keene’s youth and taking responsibility for his actions were mitigating factors, but expressed concern over Keene’s criminal history.

“There’s one place left for you to go, and that’s murder,” Cole said. “And I’m worried that you might get there.”


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