Probation violator gets 90 days, awaits trial in stove sales case

Posted Jan. 08, 2009, at 8:14 p.m.
Last modified Feb. 13, 2011, at 10:43 a.m.

BANGOR, Maine — A man accused of illegally selling pellet stoves from a now-defunct Bangor retailer will spend the next 90 days in jail on a probation violation.

Benjamin Tibbetts III, 33, of Glenburn still awaits a trial, however, on theft charges stemming from the stove sales. All indications Thursday were that he plans to fight those claims.

“I urge you to look at him not as a conviction,” his wife, Grace Tibbetts, told Justice William Anderson at a hearing in Penobscot County Superior Court. “He is innocent, and I’m confident that the truth will come out in a trial.”

Tibbetts, who wore a black pinstriped suit, also addressed the court and maintained his innocence in a series of alleged thefts from Sunrise Home and Hearth, a Stillwater Avenue pellet stove retailer where he was employed as a manager.

According to court documents, police believe that Tibbetts, over a lengthy period of time last year, sold customers stoves at a reduced rate and then kept the money.

Sunrise Home and Hearth has since gone out of business, and its owner, Shirley Bartlett, has sued Tibbetts for contributing to the demise of the business. Several customers have complained that they have not received stoves or refunds from their dealings with Sunrise Home and Hearth.

Tibbetts’ attorney, Jeffrey Silverstein, however, said the pellet stove retailer was having financial problems long before his client was hired in January 2007.

“He’s worked very hard and turned his life around,” Silverstein said of Tibbetts.

Still, Tibbetts’ legal situation is much more complicated than the charges for which he awaits trial.

His criminal history, which was outlined in court by Deputy District Attorney Michael Roberts, dates back to 2004, when he was convicted of writing a series of bad checks. A year later, Roberts said, Tibbetts was caught stealing guns from a business. Also in 2005, Tibbetts and another man stole a fuel oil truck from an Old Town business and sold the contents at a deep discount to customers while pocketing the proceeds.

Silverstein maintained that all of Tibbetts’ prior crimes were precipitated by a drug addiction. After his conviction and nine-month suspended jail sentence for the theft of the fuel truck, Tibbetts enrolled in and graduated from the Penobscot County Adult Drug Court program. The attorney also said Tibbetts has given his life over to God and is active in church, the place where he met his wife.

“His life today is completely different than it was a couple years ago,” Silverstein said.

Tibbetts’ recent alleged criminal conduct occurred after he completed the Drug Court program.

For that and other reasons, Roberts recommended a full probation revocation, which would have been five years in prison. When Tibbetts was sentenced on the fuel truck theft, that’s the amount of time which was suspended.

Anderson, however, said that since Tibbetts has not technically admitted that he violated probation by committing new crimes, a full revocation was not appropriate. Tibbetts did admit to violating probation by possessing alcohol, though. For that, Silverstein and Roberts agreed on a 90-day sentence.

Tibbetts’ case will be considered for trial as early as next month, which would be before his current sentence is completed.

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