Sidney Kilmartin could face life in prison for mailing cyanide to a man in England who took the poison to kill himself, a federal judge ruled Friday.

Sidney Kilmartin faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.

U.S. District Judge John A. Woodcock Jr. made the decision on the upper end of the penalty Kilmartin could face during a sentencing hearing Friday in Portland. But Woodcock didn’t hand down a sentence because prosecutors and Kilmartin’s lawyers ran out of time. The conclusion of the sentencing hearing is expected to be held in about 10 days.

Friday’s lengthy session mirrored the long and winding road of the Kilmartin case as a whole. The former Windham man was arrested in 2014 after investigators said he told people he met in suicide chat rooms on the internet that he would sell them cyanide which they could use to take their lives.

Instead, he sent them Epsom salts. But one man, Andrew Denton of Hull, England, got angry at the ruse and threatened to expose the fraud.

So Kilmartin sent Denton real cyanide, and the Englishman took it to kill himself.

Kilmartin was convicted in October 2016 by a federal jury of mailing injurious articles, after a weeklong trial.

His trial was marked by lengthy delays as lawyers argued over Kilmartin’s competence to stand trial and wrestled with a couple of unusual situations. For instance, Kilmartin pleaded guilty to nine of the 15 counts against him, mainly mail and wire fraud counts, for the cases in which he sent buyers Epsom salts. But he went to trial with the unusual charge of mailing injurious articles resulting in death, a 100-year-old statute that is rarely used. His lawyers also originally sought to have him declared incompetent to stand trial, which led to further delays.

At the outset of Friday’s hearing, Woodcock had to decide what penalty Kilmartin could face. Because the injury resulted in death, Woodcock ruled, it was tantamount to murder, so Kilmartin will face a maximum penalty of life in prison. He also ruled that Kilmartin could be subject to a longer sentence because he preyed on vulnerable people and obstructed justice by trying to get Denton to destroy evidence of their correspondence before he sent him the fatal cyanide dose, Also on Friday, Kilmartin’s mental health was an issue again, as his attorney, Bruce Merrill, sought to persuade Woodcock that his client’s mental illnesses warranted a lesser sentence.

Dr. Carlyle Voss, a psychiatrist, spent more than an hour and a half on the stand, going over three interviews he conducted with Kilmartin, the last in January. He concluded that Kilmartin had serious mental disorders marked by bouts of depression and manic times. But he conceded that he and other psychiatrists had concluded that Kilmartin was competent to stand trial and knew right from wrong.

Friday’s hearing ended before prosecutors and defense lawyers could lay out their specific sentencing requests for Kilmartin

In court filings, Merrill said he is seeking a sentence for his client of no more than 10 years, with three years of supervised release and requirements that Kilmartin attend counseling and get psychiatric and substance abuse counseling.

Woodcock said scheduling the rest of the sentencing hearing will have to be worked out with the court clerk’s office. But he said he expects to be off much of next week and suggested it might be held the week of May 7-11.


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