AUGUSTA — Jacob Lynn Hitchcock, found guilty of stabbing two local men with his folding utility knife in a drunken fight outside a Hallowell bar, asked a judge Thursday to allow him to return to his family.
“I just want to put this mistake and nightmare behind me and get back to my wife and children in Oklahoma,” said Hitchcock, 27, of Bennett, Colo. “They need me.”
Justice Robert Mullen, who presided over a two-day jury trial last week, on Thursday sentenced Hitchcock to seven years in prison, with all but 27 months suspended, and three years of probation. Hitchcock was working on a pipeline installation project in Gardiner for Colorado-based Performance Energy Services, and was drinking with coworkers after work Nov. 2 and into Nov. 3, when the stabbing happened.
On Thursday, he told Justice Robert Mullen that he came to work on the project in Maine to support his family.
“I deeply regret this incident,” Hitchcock said. “I pray I never have to go through this again and the victims never have to go through this again.”
Mullen said he hoped Hitchcock learns from this “terrible, terrible mistake,” and he chastised the man for the attack, which came after Hitchcock used a racial slur at a stranger and a group confronted him.
“One’s response to a swing of a fist cannot be with a knife or a box cutter,” Mullen told him.
Mullen heard testimony during the trial from the two victims as well as Hitchcock and a number of others who were on Water Street in Hallowell early on Nov. 3. Neither victim was at the sentencing hearing Thursday in Kennebec County Superior Court.
The sentence, which came a week after Hitchcock was convicted of two counts of aggravated assault, was just short of what the state wanted. Assistant District Attorney Tracy DeVoll advocated for a sentence of eight years, with all but 30 months suspended, and two years of probation.
DeVoll said the crime resulted from Hitchcock’s use of racial slurs against a black man who was out having fun with his friends. The stabbing occurred around 1 a.m., after last call in most bars.
Witnesses testified that Hitchcock repeatedly called the man “boy” and then used cruder racial terms that provoked a reaction from the man’s friends. All were strangers to Hitchcock.
DeVoll said Hitchcock provoked a conflict while armed with a knife, which he used to cut pipes.
Hitchcock’s defense attorney, Roger Brunelle, asked the judge to impose a sentence consisting of time already served in jail plus probation so Hitchcock could return to his family. Hitchcock was arrested Nov. 3 and has remained in custody in lieu of bail.
Mullen laid out the reasons for the sentence, saying, “This was a very serious criminal episode that could have been much worse if the victims had been stabbed in a different site.”
Andrew Severy was stabbed in the stomach and arm, and Ryan Sauber was stabbed about five times on the left side and suffered a broken rib. Mullen also talked of mitigating circumstances that included the absence of any previous criminal record for Hitchcock and the fact that he had a family and was employed by companies and individuals who said they would employ him again.
Brian King, a bouncer and doorman at Higher Grounds, where some of the men had been drinking that night, testified he tackled Hitchcock to the street, grabbed the wrist holding the knife and had another bouncer who was off duty that night grab the knife and get it away from Hitchcock.
“There were two incidents and might have been more if the bouncer hadn’t stepped in,” Mullen said. “He’s the real hero, in my opinion.”
The judge also ordered Hitchcock to pay $879 for Severy’s medical bills and $1,613 for Sauber’s medical bills and damage to Sauber’s slashed jacket.