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Langlais jurors view scene of fatal punch

Union Leader Correspondent

August 23. 2017 9:46PM
Eric Langlais views surveillance video from Gary's Sports Bar in Rochester Wednesday during his manslaughter trial in Strafford County Superior Court. Langlais is accused of throwing a fatal punch at James Unfonak in the parking lot outside the bar. (KIMBERLEY HAAS/Correspondent)

DOVER — Jurors in the Eric Langlais manslaughter trial were asked to pay close attention to surveillance cameras and the parking lot outside Gary’s Sports Bar in Rochester during their viewing Wednesday.

Prosecutors say Langlais, of Barnstead, killed Seacoast drummer James Unfonak of the band Bang N Jane in that parking lot during the early morning hours of Jan. 31, 2016.

Langlais allegedly sucker punched Unfonak in the jaw, and the 44-year-old Rochester man fell to the ground and fractured his skull. Doctors at Maine Medical Center in Portland tried to revive him, but Unfonak was eventually taken off life support by family members.

The series of events leading up to the attack were all caught on camera, and Deputy County Attorney Timothy Sullivan started using the surveillance video as he asked his first witness, Al Lehman, to describe what happened on the evening in question once testimony began.

Lehman, who was a sound technician for the band, talked about walking Unfonak out of the bar to catch a sober ride, and testified that Langlais came out from behind another vehicle and went after his friend. Langlais had been kicked out of the bar 20 minutes before that by a bouncer.

“I didn’t even know he was out there until it was too late,” Lehman said.

Lehman said that after Langlais punched Unfonak, he fell backward and his head hit the ground.

“It was one of the loudest bangs I ever heard in my life. I went to Jim and basically never left him until we got an ambulance,” Lehman said.

Lehman testified that police who arrived on the scene told the group standing outside the bar that Unfonak was not going to make it.

“I wasn’t feeling very much at the time. I just saw one of my brothers killed,” Lehman said.

Prior to Lehman’s testimony, Sullivan said during opening statements that on Jan. 30, 2016, Unfonak played with his band for the last time, and then was relaxing with his girlfriend, Kelsey Mountain, and other friends out at the bar.

Sullivan admitted Unfonak was being rude to one of Laurie Henner’s friends on the night in question. Henner is the sister of Mandy Patch, who was with Langlais at the bar.

Sullivan said that is what initially provoked Langlais at Gary’s Sports Bar.

Sullivan told the jury Langlais admitted to police that he used his “knock out hand” to strike Unfonak just hours after the incident.

Sullivan explained that it is the state’s position that Langlais acted recklessly, and in a way that is unjustifiable, and said at the end of the trial he will be asking for a guilty verdict on the crimes of manslaughter and felony riot.

Defense attorney Richard Samdperil told jurors the state has trumped-up charges against his client. He distinguished between typical cases where a defendant is found guilty of manslaughter and the case against Langlais.

“There was no use of a deadly weapon. This is not a case of a firearm going off, or a drunk driver killing someone with their two-ton vehicle,” Samdperil said.

Samdperil said nobody could have foreseen what happened.

“Nobody wanted Jimmy to die, and nobody expected it,” Samdperil said. “That is what really makes this case a tragedy.”

Samdperil said the evidence will show that Unfonak stuffed a plunger handle from the bar’s bathroom into his boot before being escorted outside by Lehman and a bouncer.

“These are two guys that both wanted a piece of each other,” Samdperil said.

Testimony in this case is expected to go into next week.

If convicted of manslaughter, Langlais could be sentenced to 15 to 30 years in prison. He faces 3 ½ to 7 years for the felony riot charge.

Courts Crime General News Rochester

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