PORTLAND — A federal judge sentenced an Auburn man Wednesday to the two years and eight months he spent in prison awaiting his final sentence on a felony gun possession charge.
Willie Richard Minor, 60, was charged in 2017 with possession of a firearm by a person convicted of misdemeanor crime of domestic violence. The underlying charge stemmed from a 2010 conviction involving his former wife, according to court records.
Auburn police investigated in November 2016 a complaint involving Minor that resulted in multiple charges against him, including sex trafficking and assault, for which Minor was acquitted by a jury in Androscoggin County Superior Court in Auburn last year.
The federal gun possession charge arose from that investigation, during which Minor told police he had a handgun that they later found partially loaded in a bathroom cabinet in his home.
Minor went to trial in U.S. District Court on the gun charge, was convicted and sentenced to 57 months in prison.
Minor appealed that conviction, which was eventually thrown out and the case returned for retrial by agreement of prosecutors based on a 2019 U.S. Supreme Court decision that said the government must prove both that the defendant knew he possessed a firearm and that he knew he belonged to the relevant category of persons barred from possessing a firearm.
Minor was tried a second time in federal court on the gun charge — in February — and was again convicted. But before he could be sentenced, the chief justice of Maine’s federal courts imposed wide restrictions on court proceedings, triggered by the coronavirus pandemic. As a result, Wednesday’s sentencing was held via videoconferencing, a technology that court has been using in lieu of holding hearings in person in the courtroom due to COVID-19 concerns.
At the Wednesday sentencing, U.S. District Court Judge D. Brock Hornby said he was imposing a lower sentence than he gave Minor after his 2018 trial for several reasons, including Minor’s medical history of diabetes, dementia, obesity and neuropathy, among other ailments.
“One of the big things that’s changed” since Hornby sentenced Minor the first time is the presence of COVID-19, Hornby said Wednesday.
Sending Minor back to prison would put him at higher risk of contracting COVID-19 than staying at home, where he has been confined for months with electronic monitoring, Hornby said.
If Minor were to go back to prison, he may well qualify for compassionate release anyway, due to his myriad medical conditions, Hornby reasoned.
While on home confinement, Hornby said Minor had complied with the conditions of his release.
In addition to time served, Hornby also sentenced Minor on Wednesday to three years of supervised release; conditions include no possession of controlled substances and mandatory drug testing.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Julia Lipez said Wednesday she had agreed to the lower sentence for Minor this time, given his circumstances, coupled with the additional strain the prison system is suffering these days.
“Good luck to you, Mr. Minor,” Hornby said. “Stay out of trouble.”