Delay of sentences
AUBURN - Sarah and Jeremy Allen believe they have suffered enough.
They saw it this way: Their only son is dead. They will never be able to adopt again. They lost their home in Lisbon Falls. Jeremy was kicked out of the Navy. They are thousands of dollars in debt.
"Your honor, I beg you - I beg you from the bottom of my heart - to have mercy and grace on us," Jeremy Allen said Friday, minutes before Justice Ellen Gorman sentenced him and his wife for the crimes they committed against their 21-month-old son.
Sarah Allen was asked to stand first.
She held onto her lawyer's hand as Gorman sentenced her to three and a half years in prison and two years of probation for shaking Nathaniel Allen to death.
Jeremy was next. He looked straight at Gorman as she sentenced him to six months in jail and two years of probation for assaulting his son two days before the boy died.
"Nathaniel was not even 2 years old when he died," Gorman said. "He had no ability to protect himself, no ability to escape, no ability to ask for help."
Delay of sentences
Nathaniel Allen died Feb. 15, 2003, after Sarah Allen shook or jerked him with enough force to cause severe head and neck injuries. A jury convicted her of manslaughter earlier this month.
At the time of his death, the boy had red and purple bruises on his buttocks and thighs. Jeremy Allen caused the bruises days before the boy died by repeatedly hitting him with a wooden spoon for not picking up his toys.
Jeremy Allen was convicted of assault last September.
Sarah, 31, will go to the Maine Correctional Center in Windham. Jeremy, 31, will serve his time at the Androscoggin County Jail.
In most cases, defendants are taken from the courtroom by jail guards immediately after the sentencing. That didn't happen Friday.
Gorman agreed to delay execution of the sentences until the couple's attorneys file their appeals, and the Maine Supreme Judicial Court has time to rule on them.
The process usually takes six to 18 months.<!-- stopprint -->
˜Windows to their souls'
After being sentenced, the Allens joined the dozens of people who went to Androscoggin County Superior Court on Friday to speak on their behalf.
Friends and relatives came from as far away as Florida and Michigan. They spoke for more than two hours.
"I know in the depths of their souls that they are good and they have value," said Roger Cousineau, the pastor at East Auburn Baptist Church, to which the couple has belonged for several years.
Supporters described Sarah and Jeremy Allen as honest, good-hearted people who would have done anything for their son.
"I have never known and I have never seen the kind of love that Sarah and Jeremy had for Nathaniel," said Sarah Allen's father, Steve Lewis. "I will probably never see that kind of love again."
The Allens were not able to have their own children. They adopted Nathaniel from Guatemala when he was 1 year old.
They had him for 10 months before he died.
"I ask you to look in the face of these kids and look in their eyes, their eyes are windows to their souls," said Jeremy's mother, Rebecca McAtee.
Assistant Attorney General Lisa Marchese acknowledged that the Allens are not typical defendants.
"The jury thought Sarah was a good person," Marchese said. "But, unless we send a message to society that frustration with children that results in death is a serious crime, children will continue to be victims."
Marchese asked Justice Gorman to remember Nathaniel Allen and to consider that the couple has not shown any remorse for their actions.
The Allens maintain that their son died from a pre-existing seizure disorder.
When Jeremy Allen spoke Friday, he told Gorman that he feels horrible - not for assaulting his son, but for failing to realize that the boy was having a seizure on the night that he spanked him.
Sarah Allen chose not to speak at the sentencing hearing.
"The fact that she is not standing here today saying, â€˜I'm guilty,' does not mean she is not remorseful," her attorney said.
Gorman didn't see it that way.
She considered the Allens' failure to accept responsibility as an aggravating factor, and she told the crowded courtroom that her job was to sentence them as people convicted of manslaughter and assault, not as people whose lives have been torn apart by false allegations.
"Some of you may continue to ignore or disagree with the verdicts," Gorman said. "But the court may not."