November 14, 2012

Augusta priest charged with smuggling drugs into Wiscasset jail

The Rev. Stephen Foote, 70, of Bremen, had been providing two inmates with suboxone, according to the Lincoln County Sheriff's Office; Foote was placed on leave by the Episcopal Diocese of Maine

By Michael Shepherd mshepherd@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

A priest who has been serving St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Augusta is on administrative leave after police charged him and two inmates at a regional jail with trafficking drugs there.

Meanwhile, a retired Augusta minister said she warned the priest not to initiate the friendship with one of the inmates he's accused of giving drugs to.

The Rev. Stephen Foote, 70, of Bremen, faces a Class C charge of trafficking in prison contraband at Two Bridges Regional Jail in Wiscasset, the Lincoln County Sheriff's Office said Wednesday. Charged with Class D counts of attempted trafficking in prison contraband are jail inmates Joshua Theriault-Patten, 25, of Bremen, and Adam Shawley, 27, of Newport.

Authorities said the arrests and charges stemmed from a joint, monthlong investigation involving the sheriff's office, the jail and the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency.

Foote and the two inmates were arrested Nov. 1 on charges that they trafficked the drug suboxone, a synthetic opiate typically used to ease symptoms of opiate addiction, but also can be abused.

Foote was arrested and released on unsecured bail, while Theriault-Patten and Shawley were already in custody.

The Episcopal Diocese of Maine in Portland released a statement Wednesday saying the office was notified of Foote's arrest on the afternoon of Nov. 1, the day of the arrest.

The Right Rev. Stephen T. Lane, the diocese's bishop, "receives this news with sadness and deep concern, and requests that Maine Episcopalians keep all parties in their prayers as we move through these difficult days," according to the statement.

"This is a sad event and quite unusual," Lane said in an interview Wednesday.

A message left for Foote at his home was not returned immediately. Foote's attorney, Newcastle attorney William Avantaggio, declined to comment.

Class C crimes, such as the count Foote faces, are punishable by up to five years in jail and a $5,000 fine, according to the Office of the Maine Attorney General's website.

'Thought he was helping'

In an interview Wednesday, Lincoln County Sheriff's Lt. Michael Murphy said Theriault-Patten had been a parishioner of Foote's in the past and the priest often visited him in jail -- sometimes simply visiting, but sometimes taking him suboxone. Murphy said Shawley didn't know Foote, but he associated with Theriault-Patten in jail.

"The inmates in the jail arranged for it to be sent to Mr. Foote, and he took it from there," Murphy said. Murphy said the inmates were using the drugs in jail, not distributing them.

The sheriff's office seized 10 suboxone strips, valued at about $500 in jail, Murphy said. He didn't have details about how the drugs got past security there, and a Two Bridges Jail administrator wouldn't discuss case specifics, saying generally that different types of visits call for different levels of security.

Kennebec County Sheriff Randall Liberty said if drugs make it into his county jail, they also typically aren't distributed.

"Most of the time, they'll use it for themselves," he said. "What they most fear is coming off that opiate addiction -- getting those flu-like symptoms."

He said after all contact visits, Kennebec County jail officials strip-search inmates.

Often, he said, drugs aren't smuggled in by visitors, but they're dropped outside the jail, where members of kitchen work crews can get to them. Liberty said they're sometimes dropped in public where inmates could be working on other crews.

If drugs are taken into his jail by a visitor, Liberty said, they typically are concealed in a cheek or other body cavity, given that visitors there are patted down.

Murphy said Foote admitted trafficking drugs, but he thought he was doing Theriault-Patten a favor.

(Continued on page 2)

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Adam Shawley

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