AUGUSTA — A Waterville man who served 10 years behind bars for manslaughter in the 1998 death of his 13-month-old stepdaughter was ordered to serve nine months and a day – a term that puts him back in prison – for being a felon in possession of a firearm.

Erik P. Hart, 45, pleaded guilty to that charge Thursday at the Capital Judicial Center and was sentenced to the initial term behind bars, with the remainder of the three-year sentence suspended. Two years of probation are to begin when Hart finishes the prison time, according to the court record.

In exchange for his plea, charges of reckless conduct, operating while his license was suspended or revoked and failing to stop for an officer were dismissed.

The incident began when his then-girlfriend called Waterville police on Sept. 5 to say they had argued and that Hart was intoxicated, had a handgun and was making suicidal statements before driving away from her home in his truck.

An affidavit by Waterville police Officer Ryan Dinsmore said police found the vehicle, but Hart refused to pull over when signaled by Sgt. Ryan Gardiner. He later agreed to speak to police when he reached his own driveway.

According to Dinsmore, Hart said he had been drinking but that he did not have a gun and could not possess one because he was a felon.


However, Gardiner found a 9 mm handgun, with one round in the magazine, on Hart’s neighbor’s lawn.

Hart was charged with reckless conduct with a firearm for allegedly discarding the gun, and the driving violations because his license had been suspended for failing to pay child support, according to the affidavit.

The prosecutor Thursday was Assistant District Attorney Francis Griffin. Hart was represented by attorney Henry Beck.

In 2000, Hart received a 15-year sentence for manslaughter in the death of Chelsea Taplin in Wiscasset. He was ordered to serve an initial 10 years, with the remaining five years suspended, and he was placed on probation for six years.

He originally had been charged with murder, accused of throwing the baby girl to the floor in June 1998 to stop her crying. She died from her injuries a few days later. Police at the time said the child showed evidence of multiple prior injuries.

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