The alleged murder suspect pleads for lesser charges

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Nathaniel Ashwood and his attorney Verne Paradie appear Monday in Androscoggin District Court on trial for attempted murder. He advocated lesser charges before the trial began. Christopher Williams / Sun Journal

AUBURN – Just before his trial began on Monday, a Massachusetts man who faced up to 30 years in prison for attempted murder pleaded guilty to a lesser charge that could face a maximum sentence of 3½ years.

The jury was already in the Androscoggin County Superior Court when Nathaniel D. Ashwood, 33, of Springfield, Massachusetts, accepted an offer from the prosecutor.

Police arrested Ashwood on June 12, 2020 after shooting a woman on Bartlett Street.

Wearing a buttoned shirt and tie to trial, Ashwood pleaded guilty to two crimes: reckless behavior with a firearm and possession of a firearm by a prohibited person, each punishable by up to five years in prison.

In a plea agreement, he can be sentenced to a maximum of 3½ years in prison. His attorney, Lewiston attorney Verne Paradie, is expected to argue for less time behind bars in the sentencing, which is scheduled for Wednesday.

Prosecutors announced that they would be dropping the charges of attempted murder and robbery. Each of them is punished with up to 30 years in prison.

The two charges had “serious evidence problems,” Paradie told Judge Harold Stewart II.

Had a jury been presented with evidence at the trial that included a road surveillance video as well as Ashwood’s DNA on a found handgun, sunglasses and a hat, they would be “very likely found guilty (Ashwood) of the two minor crimes” Ashwood pleaded guilty to Paradise.

In a petition filed in court last month, Paradie claimed the case should have been closed because his client had been denied speedy proceedings. He pointed to delays in submitting evidence to the Maine Crime Lab in Augusta and further delays in testing.

Stewart denied his request, citing the novel coronavirus pandemic for much of the delay.

Assistant District Attorney Andrew Matulis said after the hearing on Monday that the woman and key witnesses had been summoned, but prosecutors were not confident they would appear in court or testify on the events leading up to the more serious charges. He said this was the “driving force” behind the deal.

Ashwood’s trial was to take three days. He remains in Androscoggin County Jail on bail on $ 200,000.

According to witnesses and surveillance videos, Ashwood walked through a crowd, including women and children, when he confronted a woman and asked if she was laughing at him, police said.

He pulled a gun from his waistband and aimed it at her head, telling her to give him all her money, court records said.

Witnesses said Ashwood ran away from the woman but police said they fired shots in her direction.

Police also found the discarded hat and sunglasses seen in video footage worn by the suspect.

Ashwood’s DNA was found on these items, as well as a silver Ruger pistol that had been thrown away in the area.

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

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