ELIZABETHTOWN — Despite an apology made in court, Paul J. Taylor was sentenced Monday to spend the maximum 25 years to life in prison.
Essex County Judge Richard B. Meyer delivered the sentence for Taylor's role in the 2012 murder of Robert M. Rennie, a Keeseville man who had two young children.
“Sir, you are a dangerous psychopath … (with) a lifelong pattern of cruelty," Meyer told Taylor, looking him straight in the eye.
The decision came despite legal review of a prior conviction.
Meyer accepted and reviewed statements Monday from defense, suggesting Taylor had not been given proper counsel for a felony plea agreement in 1997. Taylor was convicted in Essex County Court that year of second-degree manslaughter in the homicide death of Marcus Chadwick.
The judge read aloud comments that Taylor had made in court in May 1997 when Judge Jan Plumadore gave the convicted man a chance to speak.
“’I didn’t mean to kill that man or anything like that,'” Meyer quoted from the transcript.
But, Meyer said, there was no request by Taylor for a new attorney or for review of the plea. The judge found no violation of Taylor’s constitutional rights in the 1997 plea agreement.
In fact, Meyer said in delivering the sentence, “the similarity in your conduct that time … and with (the death of) Mr. Rennie … is more than striking.”
Taylor served most of a 15-year indeterminate sentence from 1997 until 2010 for the prior manslaughter conviction.
Meyer went on to list other criminal arrests Taylor has faced since his release in 2010, including criminal possession of a weapon in 2010; domestic assault in Vermont, in 2011 and 2012; and a 2012 arrest for assault in Chesterfield.
Meyer said it “defies all logic and reason that (Taylor) could be rehabilitated. You lack a conscious,” he told the convicted man.
“You’re a coward and a bully,” Meyer said, for picking on much smaller and more defenseless men in both cases.
Meyer also gave Taylor a determinate 25-year sentence plus five years of post-release supervision for the gang-assault charge in Rennie's death. Those two sentences run concurrently.
Meyer then sentenced Taylor to another three and a half to seven years in prison for possession of a weapon in this case, to run consecutive.
PARENTS SPEAK UP
Robert M. Rennie's parents both had time in court to address their son's killer.
Vaida Rennie spoke bravely but tearfully at times.
“Finally, Paul Taylor, I can tell you what I have wanted to say,” she said, looking across the courtroom.
“You will be living behind a wall … one with search lights and razor wire. Perhaps you will have time to reflect? Do you have a conscious at all?”
She wondered if he had any remorse in causing the death of her son.
“Why did this tragedy have to happen?” she asked. “Why did Robert have to die?”
Robert J. Rennie spoke directly and clearly, his words expressed his family's pain.
“Paul Taylor, it’s very evident that you have no respect for life. There is no place in society for you other than prison,” he said.
Mr. Rennie then referred back to court testimony given three times by the same witness who described how Taylor kept kicking Robert M. Rennie when the other men stopped.
Taylor had told his accomplices and a witness to the beating: “I’m not done yet.”
“You may have not been done with Robert, but we are all done with you,” Mr. Rennie said.
Essex County Assistant District Attorney Michael Langey asked the court to deliver the maximum sentence for the heinous crime.
“This is the second time Paul Taylor has been here in Essex County Court for killing somebody,” Langey said.
“This case was a brutal case. It was a severe beating to a man that was highly intoxicated,” Langey said.
“He (Taylor) should not be allowed to be in our society, your honor.”
Langey also asked for eight-year orders of protection for three witnesses in the case, Samantha LaCroix, Angela Rivers and Brandon Rivers, which the judge granted.
Given the opportunity to speak, Taylor addressed the Rennie family.
“I would like to express my sorrow for your loss,” he said just before the judge delivered the sentence.
Taylor said he was “stuck in the middle of a family feud.
“Because of my past, I got dragged into this mess.”
Taylor said he was “used by two women, who set this in motion” and was further provoked by the two others convicted in Rennie’s death: Scott E. Denno and Michael J. Rivers.
“There are so many holes in this case, I cannot move without stepping in one,” he said, pleading with Judge Meyer for compassion.
“I won’t be around for my mother; I won’t be around for my father,” he said of his elderly parents.
“I cannot believe I am standing here … for a crime I did not commit.”
Brandon Boutelle, Taylor’s attorney and Essex County’s chief public defender, said his client looks forward to the appellate process to prove a false conviction.
“I’m the only one here who would say anything nice about Mr. Taylor,” Boutelle told the court. “I see some good in Mr. Taylor. He has kindness and the ability to help others.”
Taylor was sent to Essex County Jail for processing to state prison.
After the courtroom adjourned, Mr. Rennie said he was happy the family had found some level of retribution in their loss.
“We got some reassurance in that a killer would get what he deserves.”
The family all appeared relieved that this trial is over. It was the last of three trials related to Rennie's death in August 2012.
Rivers has yet to go before Meyer for sentencing. That hearing is set for Jan. 9. Rivers is facing prison time for first-degree manslaughter and gang assault.
Denno was sentenced to the maximum 25 years in prison in August for first-degree manslaughter and gang assault.
E-mail Kim Smith Dedam at: firstname.lastname@example.org