AUBURN — A local man police said ran down another man as retribution for an earlier fatal accident withdrew his guilty plea Monday and plans to go to trial on related charges.

William Panzino, 21, of 336 Merrill St., had agreed earlier in January to plead guilty to a charge of reckless conduct and was expected to spend 14 days in jail. He also had agreed to pay restitution to Kyle Karkos, the pedestrian he hit. The overall sentence would have been 18 months, plus two years on probation.

All that changed Monday when Panzino discovered in Androscoggin County Superior Court he would lose his driver’s license for three years.

With a baby less than a year old and a full-time job, Panzino said he would take his chances on a trial, probably sometime in April.

Karkos was knocked to the ground by Panzino’s car in June and treated for non-life-threatening injuries at a local hospital.

Karkos had been driving the car in 2006 in which Kenny Jellison Jr., 18, was killed when Karkos lost control and the car hit a light pole on a Lewiston street.

Karkos, 17 at the time, was acquitted of a manslaughter charge in 8th District Court in Lewiston.

Prosecutors said Panzino intentionally ran down Karkos as retribution for that accident. Panzino maintains it was an accident.

“It’s kind of frustrating,” Panzino’s attorney, James Howaniec, said Monday after the brief courtroom hearing where his client withdrew his plea to reckless conduct. A charge of aggravated assault, which prosecutors had promised to drop, will also follow Panzino to trial.

The felony reckless conduct conviction is punishable by up to five years in prison; the assault conviction is punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

“There’s a risk. He’s aware of it,” Howaniec said, referring to his client’s gamble.

Panzino had been prepared to admit some facts that prosecutors would have brought to trial to use against him could have led a jury to find him guilty of reckless conduct, Howaniec said.

But Panzino “still adamantly denies he intentionally hit this individual,” Howaniec said. Panzino likely will seek a jury trial, Howaniec said. It will have to decide whether Panzino’s conduct was accidental, intentional or criminally negligent, Howaniec said.

At an earlier court appearance, Panzino had been ordered to have no contact with Karkos, the man he allegedly ran down the June night of a carnival at Great Falls Plaza.

Police said Karkos was walking across the street that cuts through Great Falls Plaza after exchanging words with someone riding in Panzino’s car. Police said Karkos had been involved in a fight earlier in the evening with one of Panzino’s friends.

Karkos was knocked to the ground and taken to Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston where he was released after he was treated for cuts and bruises to his head, hands and back.

Prosecutors said the incident was connected to the accident in which Jellison was killed. The deceased was a passenger in a car that Karkos was driving and reportedly racing.

The case divided their friends at Edward Little High School and the two families, and ill will has been simmering since.

At his initial appearance in June in 8th District Court in Lewiston, Panzino disputed the prosecutor’s claim that the 2010 accident was related to the earlier accident. He had told police he had tried to toss a lit cigarette out his car window, but it hit the partially rolled down window and landed in his lap, distracting him from seeing Karkos.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: