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Work release hearing focuses on killer's future, victims' loss

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Eric Langlais reads a prepared statement on his behalf to the court during his work release hearing today at Strafford County Superior Court. At left, is defense counsel Joseph Welsh. (Rochester Voice photo)

DOVER - Today's arguments over whether the man found guilty in the death of Bang N Jane drummer Jim Unfonak should be allowed work release just 10 months after his sentencing centered heavily on whether punishment or rehabilitation should be the guiding light to decide should he stay in state prison or move to a halfway house.

Langlais, 43, of Barnstead, was sentenced to three and a half to seven years on a charge of negligent homicide back on Nov. 1, but with 628 days of pretrial credit, he could be released on parole as soon as next August.

That's why defense counsel Joseph Welsh argued that he be allowed work release where he'd live in a halfway house next to the prison while looking for a job to begin his re-entry into society.

Jim Unfonak (Courtesy)

Welsh argued before Strafford County Superior Court Judge Mark E. Howard that Langlais had been a model prisoner and was already stationed in a minimum secure unit.

He said Langlais has had no disciplinary issues in prison, has been OK'd for work release by the Department of Corrections and had taken mental health counseling at his own behest where he was found to have no issues.

Langlais, while reading from a prepared statement, told Howard he was sorry for what had happened to Unfonak, but that he wanted to re-enter society and the workforce so he could pay off his restitution.

Welsh noted that Langlais has already served some 940 days behind bars at the state prison and the Strafford County Jail prior to his sentencing.

But Deputy County Attorney Tim Sullivan countered the violent crime committed by Langlais should focus on punishment, not rehabilitation.

Sue Erickson, the mother of Kelsey Mountain, Unfonak's longtime girlfriend, called Langlais a "monster" during sentencing, but softened her rhetoric but not her resolve today.

Reading a prepared statement from Erickson, Sullivan said she hoped he would successfully return to society someday but first "he needs to serve his time."

She also referred to his "violent history."

During sentencing Sullivan noted that in 2004 Langlais was convicted of second degree assault for breaking the rib of his four-month-old child.

And while it wasn't used at trial, it was learned that earlier in the day before he arrived at the former Gary's Sports Bar where Unfonak lost his life Langlais had had a confrontation with a patron at a Dover tavern.

Mountain told The Rochester Voice on Sunday, "I think his initial sentence was ridiculous and now he's able to request work release before he's even completed the minimum sentence. I'm glad the prosecutors have objections. He doesn't deserve to be able to walk out of that prison until he's done at least three and a half years, which isn't nearly enough."

Unfonak, 44, was mortally wounded when Langlais punched him in the face in the parking lot of the now-closed Gary's Sports Bar in Rochester early the morning of Jan. 31, 2016. After being struck under the chin the popular, longtime Bang N Jane drummer fell to the ground hitting his head heavily on the packed snow and ice.

The deadly confrontation followed an evening of taunts and recriminations between the two, with the trial featuring hours of viewing of surveillance video that showed their escalating tension.

After Unfonak was struck he was taken first to Frisbie Memorial Hospital and then to Maine Medical Center in Portland, but never regained consciousness and was taken off life support the following day.

Howard said he would study the matter and is expected to render his decision in about a week.

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