PORTLAND – After a night out in the Old Port last year, William Googins punched another young man in the face. That brief altercation in Monument Square led to Eric Benson’s death.

Googins, 21, of Gray was sentenced to prison Wednesday in Cumberland County Superior Court for aggravated assault.

Googins had pleaded guilty in an agreement that included the dismissal of a manslaughter charge. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison with all but 2½ years suspended, and three years of probation with conditions that include 400 hours of community service and a ban on using drugs and alcohol.

Those conditions were particularly important to Benson’s family, the prosecutor said.

Googins and Benson, a Westbrook resident who was 24, encountered each other in the early morning of May 23, 2010. Googins was with a couple of friends, and Benson was with a female friend he knew through work.

Googins made sexually suggestive comments to Benson’s friend, who felt intimidated and stood behind him. Benson told Googins to leave, and Googins punched him.

The blow knocked Benson down. His head hit the brick surface of the square and he died later that morning at Maine Medical Center.

On Wednesday, Googins appeared in the courtroom, a gold crucifix hanging outside this orange jail T-shirt. He apologized to Benson’s family and said he hoped he could be forgiven.

“I know I can apologize a million times and not take away an ounce of pain,” he told them.

Assistant Attorney General Leane Zainea said that although Googins intended to punch Benson, the prosecution doesn’t believe he meant to cause Benson’s death.

Calling the situation unbearably sad, Justice Thomas Warren said it was safe to say that the incident was largely fueled by alcohol.

Zainea’s sentencing recommendation was within the appropriate range, given Googins’ youth and background, Warren said. Googins had no previous criminal record as an adult.

“I think Mr. Googins understands what happened and has to live with the consequences,” Warren said.

Googins has accepted from the beginning that he has caused heartache, his lawyer, Joel Vincent, said after the proceeding. “It’s just a horrible, horrible situation,” Vincent said.

Benson’s family — his parents, a brother, a sister, a cousin and an aunt — attended the hearing but declined to address the court when given an opportunity.

Andrew Benson of Orono said later that he understood it would be very difficult to prove Googins guilty of manslaughter.

“I think that he got what was deemed appropriate for him,” he said. “Nothing the state can do can ever bring my twin brother back.”

Staff Writer Ann S. Kim can be contacted at 791-6383 or at:

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