PORTLAND – A manslaughter suspect who was charged with criminal threatening in Lincoln Park last week may be held without bail until his trial begins in January.

Ernest Weidul, 51, appeared in court Friday in Portland. He was formally charged with violating bail conditions and served with a motion to revoke his bail because of the new charge.

The fact that Weidul was free on bail may have been due to an error in the criminal justice system.

Weidul’s manslaughter charge stems from the beating of Roger Downs Jr., 46, of 635 Forest Ave. in May 2010.

Weidul allegedly crashed his pickup truck into a fence in front of Downs’ apartment and asked to use his telephone. He brought a bottle of coffee brandy inside with him and the two men started drinking, according to witness statements in court papers.

Downs told police that he woke up the next morning unable to open his eyes. He fell back asleep, and when he awoke that afternoon he called 911.

Responding officers said his eyes were black and blue and swollen shut, his nose appeared broken and his lips were cut. Downs told them that the man who had crashed his truck said his name was Brian and he was from Virginia. Weidul is from Kennebunk and South Berwick.

Downs died two days after the alleged attack, but it was months before the state medical examiner could be sure that his death was a homicide.

Police found a hospital bracelet of Weidul’s at Downs’s apartment. Weidul’s middle name is Brian. Police found him driving a damaged pickup.

Weidul was initially charged with aggravated assault and his bail was set at $1,500.

He was indicted on a manslaughter charge in December 2010. At the time, no effort was made to increase Weidul’s bail.

“In this case, most people were operating under the assumption he had no resources to make any bail,” said Deputy Attorney General William Stokes.

The county jail has no record of the new charge, meaning it was not communicated from the court to the jail. Jail workers and prosecutors were unable to say how that happened.

The case against Weidul languished. He got psychological exams to determine whether he was competent to stand trial or whether he was in an abnormal state of mind at the time of the attack. He petitioned to replace his attorney with a new one.

“We’re kind of frustrated about it,” Downs’s younger brother Daniel said of the delays, “but what are you going to do? You just roll with it.”

Daniel Downs attended Friday’s court hearing. “It just slipped through the cracks,” he said of the failure to increase Weidul’s bail after the manslaughter indictment. “Obviously, as a family, we wish it had been increased.”

Daniel Downs remembered his brother as someone who loved sports, astronomy and the teachings of cosmologist Stephen Hawking.

“He was just a friendly, intelligent guy, who had some health issues,” he said. “He had some demons, but don’t we all.”

Roger Downs grew up in Freeport. He enjoyed freshwater fishing and working the ocean as a commercial fisherman. He loved family get-togethers and cherished his daughter. He is buried in a cemetery in Whitefield.

His parents and siblings were notified this fall that on Sept. 8, Weidul posted $1,500 bail. The money apparently came from a family member, officials said.

Prosecutors met with Superior Court Justice Joyce Wheeler on Nov. 22 to amend the bail conditions to make sure Weidul had an address, so he could be contacted if necessary. Weidul was ordered to appear in court and gave his address as Portland’s Oxford Street homeless shelter and the Occupy Maine camp in Lincoln Park.

“Apparently that’s an address,” said Stokes, who was not at the meeting.

Wednesday night, Weidul allegedly confronted a man in a tent in Lincoln Park. According to court papers, he tried to provoke the man, urging him to come outside, saying he had a knife.

When police arrived, they found Weidul in another tent. When they ordered him out, he denied threatening anyone but said they should check with the Secret Service to find out who he is.

Weidul is back in jail, and Stokes said he will seek to have his bail revoked so that he stays there until his manslaughter trial starts Jan. 27.

Staff Writer David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at:

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