Tuesday, December 10, 2013
By Betty Adams email@example.com
AUGUSTA — Christopher T. Knight, known as the North Pond Hermit, pleaded guilty Monday to 13 crimes of burglary and theft, a small fraction of the 1,000 authorities say he committed in his 27 years of hiding in the Maine woods.
Staff photo by Andy Molloy ADMISSION: Chris Knight is escorted into Kennebec County Superior Court on Monday in Augusta to enter pleas for multiple burglaries and thefts while living in the woods of Rome, ME, for 27 years. The North Pond Hermit agreed to plead guilty in exchange for receiving an alternative sentence with the Co-Occurring Disorders Court, a special, intensive supervision program where he will live and work in the community while reporting weekly to a judge.
Staff photo by Andy Molloy ADMISSION: Chris Knight sits in the Kennebec County Superior Court on Monday in Augusta while entering pleas for multiple burglaries and thefts while living in the woods of Rome, ME, for 27 years. The North Pond Hermit agreed to plead guilty in exchange for receiving an alternative sentence with the Co-Occurring Disorders Court, a special, intensive supervision program where he will live and work in the community while reporting weekly to a judge.
• Burglary & theft at Pine Tree Camp, Rome March 13 and April 4, 2013 and April 26, 2012;
• Burglary & theft at private camps in Rome July 16, 2010, and Sept. 30-Oct. 8, 2012;
• Burglary at private camp in Rome July 14-16, 2008; and
• Burglary & theft at private camp in Smithfield April 26, 2012.
Knight, 47, formerly of Albion, was arrested April 4 as he left Pine Tree Camp in Rome, laden with foodstuffs and tools. He has remained in Kennebec County jail since.
As part of his guilty plea in Kennebec County Superior Court, he was admitted to the Co-Occurring Disorders Court, a special intensive supervision program where he will live and work in the community while reporting weekly to a judge. The court is designed to help those with substance abuse and mental health problems.
If he completes the program, which can take one or more years, he will be sentenced to five years in jail, with all but seven months suspended, followed by three years’ probation, according to Justice Nancy Mills.
The judge said a delay in the start of Monday’s hearing resulted from a miscommunication between the state and the defense over the initial period of jail time. Mills said the state had told victims it would be nine months, but defense attorney Walter McKee said the agreement called for seven months.
Mills ultimately decided it would be seven months.
“I can think of no legitimate criminologic goal to require the defendant to remain incarcerated for another two months,” Mills said. She said the goal of the program is to keep incarceration at a minimum and teach participants ways to succeed.
If Knight doesn’t complete the program, he could be sentenced to a maximum of seven years in prison, Mills said.
Knight walked into a courtroom Monday afternoon with his hands behind his back, clutching several papers. His arms and face looked thinner as he stood and spoke in a deep voice. He had a thick dark beard and a balding head, surrounded by curly dark hair.
Knight, who was not handcuffed, repeated “guilty” 13 times as the judge asked him for his pleas to various felony and misdemeanor charges. His voice was deep and almost gruff the few times he spoke in court.
The story of Knight’s life in the woods of central Maine — including his nighttime raids to gather propane and batteries and his highly camouflaged camp — were first reported by the Kennebec Journal. The story brought him national media attention, plus a video, songs and contributions to repay the property owners.
The seven burglary and six theft charges go back as far as six years and cover two counties.
When Knight was first questioned by Maine State Police Trooper Diane Perkins-Vance, he told her he had not had contact with his family since the mid-1980s. He told her that was about the same time he had last purchased anything. Everything he had — except for his eyeglasses — was stolen, he said.
He also showed them items he had stored in plastic totes in a different area in case he had to retreat from his main campsite, Perkins-Vance wrote in an affidavit filed in court.
When Knight was arrested, he was wearing jeans and a belt reported as stolen in the fall of 2012 by a Rome homeowner Lillie Cogswell.
Reached in Wimberley, Texas, after the hearing, Cogswell said she was concerned about where Knight was going to live.
“There are some critical things that need to happen,” Cogswell said. “What’s to say he’s not going to walk out of jail and disappear again? And how is he going to support himself?” She said he could have learned some sort of trade in prison.
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