Jason Mulligan, 45, at his bail hearing Thursday at the Penobscot Judicial Center. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

A Penobscot County man charged in the shooting death of 23-year-old Cameron Pelkey on March 15 in a dispute over drugs pleaded not guilty to manslaughter on Thursday.

Jason Mulligan, however, pleaded guilty to unlawful possession of a firearm by a prohibited person in connection with the shooting.

Mulligan, 45, allegedly shot Pelkey, of East Millinocket, on a steep staircase in an apartment building. He died a few days later at Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center.

During Mulligan’s Thursday arraignment at the Penobscot Judicial Center in Bangor, Superior Court Justice Ann Murray set bail at $25,000 cash or $50,000 in property, the amount the prosecutor requested.

Defense attorney David Bate demonstrates how defendant Jason Mulligan was allegedly hit with a 2×4 discharging his gun. Credit: Linda Coan O’Kresik / BDN

In requesting the high bail, Assistant Attorney General Leane Zainea cited Mulligan’s long criminal history dating back to 1993 that includes convictions for assault, drug possession, theft and violations of bail and protection from abuse orders.

Defense attorney David Bate urged the court to set bail at $5,000 cash and allow Mulligan to enter a drug treatment program.

Mulligan has been held without bail since his arrest shortly after the shooting, which happened as Maine was seeing its first cases of COVID-19. He was indicted by the Penobscot County grand jury in July, as grand juries did not convene between mid-March and June 30 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mulligan originally was charged with aggravated attempted murder. That charge was replaced by the manslaughter count.

Jason Mulligan, 45, at his bail hearing Thursday at the Penobscot Judicial Center. Credit: Linda Coan O’Kresik / BDN

The shooting took place in an apartment building at 308B Penobscot Ave. in East Millinocket, according to court documents. A witness allegedly pushed Mulligan down the staircase and as he came back up the steps, Mulligan pointed his gun at Pelkey. Pelkey hit the hand in which Mulligan was holding the gun and it fired, striking Pelkey.

If convicted, Mulligan faces up to 30 years on the manslaughter charge and up to 10 years in prison on the gun charge.