MACHIAS, Maine — Three of the four men responsible for the break-in at a gun shop in Columbia last year have been sentenced in Washington County Superior Court.
Jeffrey S. Croman, 21, of Baileyville, Joshua H. Robinson, 21, and his brother Chad E. Robinson, 23, both of Charlotte were sentenced last week by Justice E. Allen Hunter. All three pleaded guilty last Tuesday to charges in connection with the break-in, during which 12 handguns and one long gun were taken from the Four Corners Rod and Gun Shop during the early morning of July 28, 2008. A gun case was smashed. Police also found that two soda machines at the nearby Columbia Supermarket had been broken into.
The case against a fourth man, Aaron P. Flood, 18, of Calais, is still pending.
Croman, who entered guilty pleas to violation of a protection order and violation of conditions of release as well as to the theft and burglary charges at the gun shop, was sentenced to five years in prison with all but two years suspended, and three years probation. Joshua Robinson was sentenced to four years in prison with all but one year suspended, and was placed on two years’ probation. Chad Robinson received a sentence of four years in prison with all but six months suspended, and was placed on two years’ probation.
Police used a video surveillance camera to identify the vehicle the men used, and the four men were arrested shortly after the break-in. During the next few weeks the handguns were turned in to police or left in places where police were told they could be picked up.
Police later learned the men planned to sell or trade the guns for drugs.
Assistant District Attorney Joelle Pratt told Hunter that when police first confronted Croman, he denied he had gone into the store. Later police learned he not only was there, but he also had grabbed the long gun, while others had grabbed handguns.
Of the guns stolen, all but two were recovered. “Some people returned them wearing hats and carrying the gun in a shopping bag,” Pratt told the court.
Pratt said that although Croman was only 21 years old he had a significant juvenile record that began when he was 15. Pratt asked that he be sentenced to two years in prison. “It will give him a chance to figure out what he is going to do with his life,” she said.
But Croman’s attorney, Carol Lewis of Lubec, recounted Croman’s childhood history. She said he had been abandoned by his mother when he was 18 months old and raised by a father who was in and out of prison.
Lewis pointed out that her client needed help and needed to go through the state’s Differentiated Substance Abuse Treatment program. She argued for a lesser sentence. “He needs to get treatment for drug and alcohol problems,” she said.
The judge then asked Croman why he should be given a sentence lighter than the one asked for by the state.
“I have a little boy 3½ years old,” he told the judge.
Studying the criminal files on his desk, the judge told Croman, “You’ve been a one-man crime wave for some time.”
The judge then told the Baileyville man that he needed to get himself “squared” away and “transform” himself into a good parent. He then sentenced Croman to five years to the Department of Correction with all but two years suspended, with three years’ probation.
The judge turned to Joshua Robinson. Pratt asked that Robinson be sentenced to four years with all but one year suspended.
Robinson’s attorney, John Churchill of Calais, pointed out that his client had made an “error in judgment” and also requested a more lenient sentence.
The judge suggested that Robinson clean up his act unless he liked “wearing orange” — the color worn by prisoners in the Washington County Jail. He then sentenced him to four years in prison with all but one year suspended, and two years’ probation.
Robinson’s brother Chad, according to Pratt, had assisted in the recovery of the missing weapons. She said that Chad Robinson chose not to make bail and already had spent six months in jail awaiting resolution of his case.
Robinson’s attorney, Jeffrey Davidson of East Machias, also talked about how his client had cooperated with police.
The judge sentenced Chad Robinson to four years in prison with all but the six months he already had served suspended. He was placed on two years’ probation.