• Lawyers argue over proper sentence for cyanide mailer

    By: PATRICK WHITTLE, Associated Press

    Updated:
    PORTLAND, Maine (AP) - Lawyers disagreed Friday on an appropriate sentence for a man convicted of mailing fatal cyanide, with prosecutors portraying him as a calculated killer and the defense calling him a victim of his own mental illness.

    Sidney Kilmartin, 50, of Windham, Maine, was found guilty in 2016 of mailing injurious articles resulting in death and witness tampering. He was scheduled to be sentenced Friday in U.S. District Court in Portland, but statements from witnesses and lawyers did not conclude by close of business, and the case is expected to resume in May.

    Kilmartin faces a maximum of life in prison, but his defense attorney made the case that a fair sentence would range from zero to 20 years because of Kilmartin's history of mental illness and suicidal behavior. The attorney, Bruce Merrill of Portland, also cited the nature of the crime, in which Kilmartin assisted a suicidal man in taking his own life.

    Kilmartin was charged with advertising and mailing a substance he said was cyanide to several suicidal people. It was really Epsom salt. But investigators said he later sent the real thing to an Englishman, Andrew Denton of Hull, England, who used it to kill himself.

    Investigators said Kilmartin wanted to prevent Denton from reporting his fraud. Halsey Frank, the U.S. attorney for Maine, said in court that Kilmartin "toyed with these victims" in his false cyanide scams.

    "It wasn't just anyone, it was particularly vulnerable people. He sought them deliberately by advertising that he had deadly poison on a website dedicated to suicide," Frank said. "It indicates to me a maliciousness that is pretty extreme."

    Merrill painted a picture of Kilmartin's and Denton's correspondence as one of two men who both wanted to die. Kilmartin had once attempted to kill himself by overdosing on medication and drinking antifreeze, and depression and mental illness continued to follow him, Merrill said.

    Merrill also said it's wrong to assume Kilmartin was "in his mind at the time" he mailed the cyanide to Denton.

    "He thought he was helping Mr. Denton accomplish what he wanted to accomplish," Merrill said. "Not a premeditated, malicious act."

    Kilmartin, wearing an orange prison jumpsuit, spoke only briefly during Friday's appearance while addressing the judge, John Woodcock. He told Woodcock he intends to address the court with a statement when his sentencing resumes next month.

    Kilmartin pleaded guilty to mail and wire fraud but denied the charges of witness tampering and mailing injurious articles.

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