A Veazie man involved in two separate homicides more than 20 years apart was back in the Penobscot County Jail on Sunday facing new but much less serious charges.
Cote Choneska, 43, made his first court appearance remotely from the jail on Monday before District Court Judge Meghan Szylvian at the Penobscot Judicial Center.
Choneska denied the charge of violating his probation by continuing to drive after his license had been suspended. He also is charged with failing to appear for a Thursday court appearance on the operating after license suspension charge.
Szylvian ordered that Choneska be held without bail until March 16 when a hearing will be held to revoke his probation.
If his probation is revoked, Choneska could be sent to prison for up to three years, the remainder of his underlying sentence related to one of the homicides.
Choneska was arrested in 2019 along with Joseph Johnson, 33, of Old Town in connection with the death of Berton Conley, 59, on Nov. 1, 2019, at his Essex Street home. Police were called to 258 Essex St. at about 7:50 a.m. that day. Firefighters located a fire in the kitchen and found Conley unconscious inside the smoke-filled house.
Conley was taken to Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center where he later was pronounced dead. The medical examiner determined the manner of death was a homicide.
Johnson and Choneska were charged with murder and arson. Choneska pleaded guilty in October 2021 to hindering apprehension of Johnson. Choneska was sentenced to five years in prison with all but the approximately 22 months he had served suspended and two years of probation.
The Maine attorney general’s office dismissed charges of murder and arson against Choneska because he was not in the house when Johnson beat Conley and set the fire.
Johnson pleaded guilty to manslaughter and arson. He was sentenced in November 2021 to 20 years in prison with all but nine suspended to be followed by four years probation. Johnson is incarcerated at Maine State Prison in Warren.
Choneska was sentenced in 1998 to 30 years in prison with all but 18 years suspended for manslaughter in the shooting of a Clifton store owner the previous year. The owner survived being shot six times, but was left partially paralyzed and in a wheelchair.
Choneska was released from Mountain View Correctional Facility in Charleston on Dec. 24, 2012, according to the Maine Department of Corrections. He completed probation in 2019.
If convicted of the failure to appear and driving after suspension charges, both misdemeanor Class E crimes, Choneska faces up to six months in jail and fines of up to $1,000 on each charge.