AUGUSTA — A New York man’s convictions for felony murder and felony robbery violated the U.S. Constitution’s double-jeopardy clause, according to a ruling Tuesday by the Maine Supreme Judicial Court.

Aubrey N. Armstrong, left, one of four people charged in the Nov. 23, 2015, drug-related beating death of Joseph Marceau in an Augusta apartment, looks at his attorney, Brad Grant, during Armstrong’s murder trial in 2018. Joseph Phelan/Kennebec Journal

As part of its ruling, the court vacated the initial ruling of Justice Daniel Billings and ordered that the conviction and sentencing of Aubrey N. Armstrong of Far Rockaway, New York, be limited to a single count.

Armstrong and three others were all charged with murder, felony murder and robbery in the drug-related killing of Joseph Marceau. Two co-defendants, Michael McQuade of Augusta and Damik Davis, pinpointed Armstrong, known in the Augusta area as “Butta” and in New York as “ACon,” as the one who administered the fatal beating on Nov. 23, 2015.

Marceau was bludgeoned to death, hog-tied and dragged into a back bedroom, where his bloodied body was discovered by police who were called by neighbors who heard the ruckus.

According to the Kennebec Journal, McQuade testified during Armstrong’s trial that he saw Armstrong beat Marceau to death over drugs, and that Marceau surrendered the drugs after the first blow.

In May 2018, Billings sentenced Armstrong to 30 years in prison on a charge of felony murder and concurrently sentenced him to 30 years on a felony robbery charge, with one year suspended and four years of probation.

However, Armstrong appealed the sentencing, claiming that his conviction on both robbery and felony murder “violates the double jeopardy clauses of the federal and state constitutions.”

The double jeopardy clause states that “no person shall be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb.”

The clause also bars defendants from being punished multiple times for the same offense.

Under Maine law, a person is guilty of felony murder if, acting alone or with others persons, commits or attempts to commit a felony — murder, robbery, burglary, kidnapping, arson, gross sexual assault, or escape — and this causes the death of another person.

In its ruling on Tuesday, Maine’s supreme court said that the issue could be eliminated by “merging the two counts into a single defined count, which has the same effect as dismissing one count, and then imposing (a) sentence on the merged count.”

McQuade and Damik Davis, 29, pleaded guilty to murder charges and were sentenced to 12 years in prison and 20 years in prison, respectively.

A fourth co-defendant, Zina Fritze of Augusta, hanged herself in jail in 2016, one day after pleading not guilty to the charges.

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