AUBURN — A judge on Wednesday rejected a bid by a Massachusetts man, charged last year with attempted murder and robbery in Lewiston, to have his case dismissed on grounds he was denied a speedy trial.

Nathaniel Ashwood Androscoggin County Jail photo

Nathaniel D. Ashwood, 33, of Springfield, Massachusetts, was indicted last year on charges of attempted murder, robbery, reckless conduct with a firearm and being a felon in possession of a firearm.

Police arrested Ashwood on June 12, 2020, after he allegedly fired shots at a woman on Bartlett Street.

Through Lewiston attorney Verne Paradie, Ashwood filed a motion to have his case thrown out, because he was denied his constitutional right to a speedy trial. It’s been 16 months since his arrest.

Androscoggin County Superior Court Justice Harold Stewart II ruled Wednesday against Ashwood.

At issue was testing evidence found at the crime scene, including a hat, sunglasses and a gun. Those items weren’t tested by the Maine Crime Lab until December, six months after they were seized.

Assistant District Attorney Neil McLean said Wednesday that several factors delayed the DNA testing of the evidence, all relating to the pandemic.

Trials in Androscoggin County Superior Court were suspended from April 2020 until roughly a year later due to COVID-19 emergency orders instituted by the court, he said.

The seized items were held at the Lewiston Police Department evidence room until they could be taken to Augusta for testing. Staffing issues in Lewiston and the quarantining of the lead detective in the case held up that transfer, McLean said.

A backlog at the Maine Crime Lab contributed to the delay, he said.

Although DNA had been detected on the items when they were finally tested, it was determined to belong to an “unknown” subject, which led to the issuance of a search warrant for a swab from Ashwood in an effort to compare his DNA to the genetic material found on the evidence, the attorneys said Wednesday.

“Mr. Ashwood was the only suspect in this case from the very beginning,” Paradie told the judge. “He was arrested in June. I have no idea why the police or the state waited seven months to get a search warrant to get his DNA.”

He said he didn’t understand why Ashwood’s DNA wasn’t sought around the time the evidence found at the crime scene was seized, knowing it would be tested for DNA.

Paradie said he had requested evidence samples to conduct his own tests by an expert, which also was delayed.

And testing data from the evidence that Paradie had sought from the lab in March took months to get back, he said.

Stewart said Paradie had filed two motions to continue in the case, which further delayed the case going to trial. One of those continuances was needed for Paradie’s expert to review the lab’s DNA results.

Stewart said the pandemic had a wide-ranging effect.

“I think we can’t lose sight through all of these things that the COVID pandemic, I think, (affected) all industries, not just the police departments, the courts and the labs, but all industries.”

Ashwood’s case is expected to go to trial next month.

Meanwhile, he remains in Androscoggin County Jail in lieu of $200,000 cash bail.

According to witnesses and surveillance video, Ashwood had been walking through a crowd of people including women and children, when he confronted a woman, asking if she was laughing at him, according to police.

He pulled a gun from his waistband and aimed it at her head and told her to give him all her money, police said in court papers.

When the woman refused, Ashwood pulled the trigger, but the gun only clicked and didn’t fire. He racked the slide back on the gun as people in the area scattered, including the woman, police said.

Witnesses said Ashwood ran from the woman, but fired shots in her direction, according to police, who later recovered nine shell casings from the area of 129 Bartlett St., where the confrontation occurred and along the street in the direction Ashwood ran, police said.

Police arrested Ashwood minutes after the shooting when he was spotted fleeing on nearby Blake Street.

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