Miguel Garcia, right, sits with Robert Van Horn, one of his attorneys, during the plea hearing on Tuesday at Hancock County Superior Court in Ellsworth. ISLANDER PHOTO BY SAMUEL SHEPHERD

Garcia charge reduced; he is free

ELLSWORTH — A Bangor man initially charged with manslaughter in the 2015 death of a North Carolina man in Bar Harbor was sentenced to time served after a plea hearing Tuesday. He went free that day.

A nine-month, one-day sentence — the length of Miguel Garcia’s incarceration awaiting trial — was handed down by Hancock County Superior Court Justice Bruce Mallonee. Garcia, 43, pleaded no contest to a lesser charge of reckless conduct with a deadly weapon (a truck). The no contest plea waived Garcia’s right to a trial.

Charges of manslaughter, aggravated criminal operating a motor vehicle under the influence of intoxicants and aggravated assault were dismissed.

Family members of the victim said during the hearing they did not believe the plea deal was sufficient punishment.

On Sept. 15, 2015, Garcia was driving a truck for Hermon-based Builders Installed Products. The truck veered off Route 3 in Bar Harbor into a turnout at The Bluffs, where it struck a car owned by Roger Beghtol of Hendersonville, N.C.

The impact propelled the car into Beghtol, who was standing outside the vehicle taking photos of the view. Beghtol later died from injuries sustained in the accident.

Garcia has been in Hancock County Jail after his bail was revoked last July. His bail was revoked when he was found to be operating an unregistered vehicle that reportedly struck a utility pole and mailboxes in Bangor. He was charged with violating the conditions of his release, two counts of criminal mischief, operating an unregistered vehicle and operating with false registration.

At the hearing, Sally Beghtol, Roger Beghtol’s widow, spoke of her loss. She said she sustained numerous injuries in the crash, as she was in the vehicle that was propelled into her husband. She said she has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and has had trouble driving since the accident.

“We would like to see Miguel Garcia get the maximum sentence [for manslaughter] of 30 years,” she said. “He should never be able to devastate a family like he did ours.”

Sally Beghtol asserted that drugs were found in the cab of the truck and that unidentified bags were thrown into the ocean after the accident.

Justice Mallonnee ruled that drug tests results were not admissible at trial.

Affidavits in support of a search warrant executed after the 2015 crash show a state police dog detected the presence of drugs inside a backpack that was in the box truck. Two men in a vehicle Garcia had been following reportedly entered the cab of the truck after the collision and were ordered away by police.

But prosecutor Toff Toffolon said Tuesday no drugs were found in the cab or found to have been thrown into the ocean. If drugs had been found, he said, the sentence likely would have been stronger.

Blood tests taken after the crash showed that Garcia had five different drugs in his system and had recently taken heroin.

Attorneys Steve Juskewitch and Robert Van Horn represented Garcia during court proceedings.

Mallonee offered condolences to the Beghtol family in his closing statement and urged Garcia to make changes to stay out of legal trouble.

“If you don’t find a different way to lead your life, you are apt to end up in a place like this again,” Mallonee said.

Updated on April 25 at 11:57 a.m.

Samuel Shepherd

Samuel Shepherd

Samuel Shepherd is a University of Maine graduate and a former Bar Harbor reporter for the Mount Desert Islander.
Samuel Shepherd

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