Pamela Smart is serving life in prison for getting teen lover to kill her husband in 1990.
WARREN, Maine—William Flynn has a wife and teenage stepdaughter, is a member of the Jaycees and likes to play softball. He sounds like a good suburban neighbor.
But Flynn’s home is a cell at the Maine State Prison, where he’s serving a 28-year-to-life sentence in the notorious Pamela Smart murder case. Flynn was 16 and having an affair with Smart when he shot and killed her husband in New Hampshire in 1990.
Now, in asking a New Hampshire judge to suspend the remainder of his sentence, Flynn depicts himself as a do-gooder who is active in community and charitable causes.
His court file contains more than three dozen letters of support from prison employees, friends and others who know him. Another nine letters come from people who say they would hire Flynn once he is released.
A hearing is scheduled for Friday in Rockingham Superior Court in Brentwood, N.H.
In the motion, Flynn asks for a sentence reduction because, at age 33, he has now spent more than half his life in prison.
“He has used those years to develop from a boy into a man of great character, fully rehabilitated and ready to contribute to society upon his release from incarceration,” says his lawyer, Cathy Green of Manchester, N.H.
That’s quite a contrast from the angry and withdrawn teenager who, as a high school sophomore, shot Gregory Smart in the back of the head as Smart begged for mercy from his knees. The murder scheme was concocted by Smart’s wife, Pamela Smart, who is serving a life sentence in a New York prison for her role.
Gregory Smart’s family opposes any sentence reduction, and the state objects to Flynn’s request, as well. Reducing his sentence would undermine the sentencing goals of punishment, rehabilitation and deterrence, said Assistant Attorney General Kirsten Wilson.
“As he has yet to serve the minimum of his sentence, he has not been appropriately punished for his crime,” she wrote.
Eighteen years ago, Flynn and his high school buddies were smitten with Pamela Smart, a blond 23-year-old who worked at their high school in Hampton, N.H.
The former disc jockey who’d been photographed with rock stars and had a license plate that read “Van Halen” met Flynn in a self-esteem class she helped teach. They became lovers, he testified, and she enlisted him to kill her husband of less than a year.
On May 1, 1990, Flynn and a friend entered the Smarts’ condominium and grabbed Gregory Smart. The friend held a knife to Smart’s throat, and Flynn — after asking God for forgiveness — fired a .38-caliber revolver. Two other teenage friends were in a getaway car.
The other three teens were convicted of murder conspiracy or accomplice charges. In exchange for testifying against Pamela Smart, Flynn pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to 28 years to life in prison.
It’ll be more than 10 years before he’s eligible for parole.
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According to court documents, Flynn has transformed himself into a thoughtful and caring adult intent on helping others while at the Maine State Prison. In his petition, Flynn writes in a 6-page handwritten letter that the guilt and shame he feels is like wearing a “huge weight strapped permanently across your shoulders.”
Flynn says he’s not worthy of the Smart family’s forgiveness, but wants them to know how truly sorry he is, “though the word sorry fails to express the depth of what I feel.”
He has no plans to write a book, or otherwise cash in on his notoriety.
“I do not want to be remembered for this,” he says. “I would like to be remembered as a good husband, a good father and a productive member of my community…I don’t need to be wealthy and I would never want to be famous.”
Flynn did not respond to requests to be interviewed for this story, and has told prison officials he wants to keep a low profile.
Flynn’s sentence-reduction petition includes a thick 3-ring notebook full of testimonials and letters of support, and certificates of achievement and completion for various courses and activities he has participated in.
Since entering prison, Flynn has earned a GED, taken college computer courses and earned an electrician’s helper license. He is so trusted in prison that he has been given work on prison security and camera systems, the file shows.
Flynn is a member of the prison Jaycees, the NAACP and the Kairos Christian organization. He is director of the Long Timers Group and chairman of the Peer Education Group. He plays guitar, soccer and softball, and has helped raise money for the Toys for Tots program and Salvation Army. A couple of years ago he helped build a children’s playhouse for a family that had moved to Maine after being displaced by Hurricane Katrina.
Flynn has also gotten married, to a woman six years his senior who was coming out of a divorce when they met at the prison.
In a letter to the court, Kelly Flynn says she owns a house where she lives with her teenage daughter. She formerly worked as the executive assistant to the superintendent of schools in Wiscasset.
Flynn says that her husband has turned himself around in prison through self-examination and hard work.
“Bill has become a man who is worthy of respect, despite his past record,” writes Flynn, who also declined to be interviewed.
While Flynn’s activities would make him a model citizen on the outside, he lives in a prison with more than 900 other inmates.
As inmate No. 1552, he sleeps in a small cell with a stainless steel toilet and wears prison-issued denim. The field he plays softball and soccer on in warmer weather is surrounded by a tall fence topped with razor wire. These days, it’s covered with snow.
He and his wife exchanged marriage vows in the prison visitor’s room, an open room where inmates and friends and family can gather around tables.
While supporters portray Flynn as a sympathetic character, he’ll have his work cut out to persuade Justice Kenneth McHugh that his sentence should be reduced.
For starters, it could be argued that Flynn’s sentence was reduced at the time of sentencing through a plea bargain, said Charles Putnam, co-director of the Justiceworks research institute at University of New Hampshire and a former homicide prosecutor.
Back then, Flynn was allowed to plead guilty to second-degree murder and had the minimum sentence cut from 40 to 28 years because of his youth, the role of Pamela Smart in the crime, his broken home life and his lack of a criminal record.
When judges consider motions for sentence reductions, they often look to see if there was something wrong with the initial sentence, Putnam said. And in the Flynn case, it will be hard to overlook the image of Flynn pulling the trigger.
“From my perspective, holding another human being who is begging to be spared, and pulling the trigger on that human being and voluntarily and purposely ending the life of that human being is a momentous act,” he said.
Furthermore, Flynn’s record in prison isn’t perfect. Flynn has six behavioral infractions for altering state property, being out of place and having too many personal items in his cell, according to Wilson, the assistant attorney general.
“The state submits that the defendant’s conduct while in prison demonstrates that his rehabilitation is not, in fact, as complete as he asserts,” Wilson says.