The man serving 30 years in prison for burning down the Grand View Topless Coffee Shop in Vassalboro went on trial briefly this week on a charges of tampering with a witness and assault.

Raymond Bellavance Jr., 51, formerly of Winthrop, is accused of tampering with a witness by assaulting Kristopher M. Russ, 30, on Jan. 13, 2011, at Two Bridges Jail in Wiscasset, where they were both being held.

At Lincoln County Superior Court in Wiscasset, Justice Jeffrey Hjelm declared a mistrial Tuesday at the request of Bellavance’s defense attorney, Andrews Campbell.

“As I understand it, Mr. Russ was called as a witness and declined to answer questions put to him by a prosecutor,” said Geoffrey Rushlau, district attorney in Lincoln, Knox, Waldo and Sagadahoc counties. “Sometime later, Mr. Campbell made a motion for a mistrial claiming this prejudiced his client.”

Russ, formerly of Brunswick, is in prison as well, serving time on theft and other convictions.

Bellavance is scheduled to appear for docket call on the same charges Aug. 6.

Campbell on Friday said he was planning to seek dismissal of the charges and questioned why the prosecution would continue to pursue the case A retrial would be a waste of money, he said.

“They’ve got a guy doing 30 years,” Campbell said. “What do they want to get another five years for? The taxpayers will have to pay for it.”

He maintained the trial was stopped because of prosecutorial misconduct because Russ was called as a witness.

“If it’s caused by the prosecutor, they can’t try him again,” Campbell said.

The alleged witness-tampering and assault incident came up during Bellavance’s arson trial in Kennebec County Superior Court last December.

At that time, Russ testified that Bellavance attacked him in jail Jan. 13, 2011, calling him a rat and a snitch for telling authorities Bellavance confessed to setting fire to the shop.

Also, Sgt. Steven Schutt, a corrections officer at the Wiscasset jail, testified that he broke up the jail fight by using pepper spray on Bellavance, then took him away in handcuffs. He said Bellavance told him: “It’s nothing against you guys; he ratted me out.”

Russ said he had been out of jail briefly and on probation when Bellavance approached him in late June 2009 at a cookout in Litchfield, Bellavance asked for help getting money to flee Maine because he thought police were about to charge him with setting the fire that destroyed the topless coffee shop in June 2009.

Russ testified his reputation as a “stand-up dude” at the jail suffered after he offered statements about Bellavance. Russ said he almost didn’t testify at that trial because he was worried about what would will happen to him in the jail.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

[email protected]


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