AUGUSTA — The 911 calls were unintelligible except for key phrases that made it clear two people were being held hostage in Winthrop by someone armed with a machete who was threatening to kill them.

Then the machete-wielder realized the hostages were making phone calls, so the caller pretended to be talking to someone else as the 911 dispatcher asked questions that elicited “yep” or “no” answers.

In the meantime, police surrounded the 24 Tappan Farm Road residence, peering in windows to see a large man with a baseball bat between his legs and a machete, and finally entered with guns drawn. 

They found drugs and firearms and ended up arresting all three men in the Jan. 31 incident.

On Thursday in Kennebec County Superior Court, the man with the machete, Nicholas Rolling, 21, of New York, was sentenced to two years in jail, with all but eight months suspended and two years probation on two counts of criminal threatening and one count of assault.

The prosecutor, Assistant District Attorney David Spencer, who played the 911 calls at the sentencing hearing, had argued for a longer sentence, saying Rolling’s actions on Jan. 31 endangered both hostages, Daniel St. Hilaire, 46, the assault victim, and Kyle Feeney, 25, both of Winthrop, as well as the police who responded.

Investigators said Rolling, who goes by Tiny, had recently met the men and was crashing on their couch, hit St. Hilaire after waking up and finding that his money — reported as both $500 or $1,000 — and his cellphone were missing.

“I was beyond scared for mine and Kyle’s life,” St. Hilaire wrote in a letter to the court. “He had ruptured my eardrum, and caused irreversible damage to my ear.”

St. Hilaire, who is serving a prison sentence for trafficking in oxycodone and violating conditions of release, was denied his request to be present in court on Thursday.

Feeney too was not in court Thursday. He was convicted of unlawful possession of scheduled drugs and was sentenced in July to 364 days in jail, with all but 30 days suspended and one year probation.

Rolling’s attorney, Kevin Sullivan, asked the judge to keep in mind Rolling’s lack of a criminal record, his limited education and family circumstances.

“This is someone who was 20 years old,” Sullivan said. “His size may fool us a little when we look at him. He’s actually very young. He only made it through 11th grade because he was taking care of his grandmother.”

Rolling’s mother died during the 26 days he spent in jail in Maine this year until his sister was able to post bail for him. Rolling pleaded guilty Aug. 6 to two counts of criminal threatening and one count of assault. He was free on bail and returned from New York to Maine for the sentencing hearing.

Sullivan told Justice Michaela Murphy that Rolling made some bad choices, got involved with bad people, and got very emotional after realizing his money had been stolen.

“Nicholas is clearly impressionable,” Sullivan said. “There no question Nicholas made some very poor decisions. This has certainly been a wakeup call for him.”

Rolling told the judge, “I lost my mom. I don’t have much. I’m totally wrong.”

His voice so thick with emotion that his words were difficult to understand, and he concluded with sobs, his hands covering his face.

Murphy imposed the sentence after saying that evidence showed the threats were verbal, and that the injury to St. Hilaire supported the assault conviction.

“The court cannot find excessive victim impact here, particularly given the line of work Mr. St. Hilaire and Mr. Feeney appear to be engaged in,” Murphy said.

Two charges of kidnapping against Rolling were previously dismissed.

Betty Adams — 621-5631
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