AUGUSTA — A New York man pleaded not guilty Friday to murder and robbery in connection with the 2015 beating death of an Augusta man.

But the pleas came only after an unusual exchange that began with Aubrey Armstrong’s silence after the judge asked if that was his name.

“Sorry, Your Honor, identification’s going to be an issue in this case,” said Armstrong’s defense attorney, Brad Grant, after holding up a finger to stop his client from speaking. “I object to any comments or requests of my client.”

“So how am I supposed to arraign your client, Mr. Grant?” asked Judge Eric Walker.

“Because I believe arraignment is, ‘Are you aware of the nature of the charges against you and how do you plead, not as to who he is,” Grant said.

Reached after the hearing, Grant said: “My client was just exercising his right to remain silent and holding the state to their burden of proof in regard to each and every element he’s charged with.”

Grant said that he has done that previously in connection with other people brought to Maine as fugitives from justice.

Armstrong, 28, of Queens, is one of four people charged in the killing of Joseph Marceau, 31, whose body was found in a Washington Street apartment formerly occupied by two of the suspects. Authorities said Marceau was beaten to death, and no knives or firearms were involved. Police have not released other details about what they think happened the night he died, although they have said Marceau’s death was a drug-related homicide.

Armstrong was arrested in New York almost a year ago on the Maine charges, but he has been serving a sentence on a New York conviction for third-degree criminal sale of controlled substances. Records of the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision indicate Armstrong has been housed most recently at Southport Correctional Facility in Pine City, New York.

On Friday in court, Assistant Attorney General John Nathans told the judge: “Mr. Armstrong has been identified on numerous occasions here with respect to the Interstate Compact and Detention Act for the purposes of acquiring him from the state of New York, where he was being held on a prior conviction as the named Aubrey Armstrong as charged, with the same date of birth.”

Grant, after objecting to his client identifying himself, said he didn’t want Armstrong to say anything in court other than “not guilty.”

Walker said he should have been made aware earlier of the issue involving identification.

“This kind of puts me in a difficult spot, springing this on me,” Walker said. Then he proceeded to conduct the arraignment, at one point describing Armstrong as “Mr. Defendant.”

At the close of the hearing, Grant apologized to Walker for failing to tell him earlier that identification would be an issue.

Armstrong ultimately said “not guilty” three times via video link to the Capital Judicial Center from the Kennebec County jail, where he arrived Tuesday. Armstrong also told the judge several times “I understand,” when asked about his rights – although he seemed hesitant to say anything until the judge prompted him further.

Armstrong was indicted on three charges: intentional or knowing or depraved indifference murder, felony murder and robbery, all of which allegedly occurred on Nov. 23, 2015.

Grant initially asked to have the arraignment done in person in the courtroom. However, Walker said he intended to do it as a video hearing, and Nathans asked that it go forward.

Two of Marceau’s family members were in court to watch the arraignment on a monitor. The victim/witness advocate accompanying them said they did not want to comment.

Betty Adams can be contacted at 621-5631 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: betadams

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