HOULTON, Maine — A 19-year-old Houlton man will get another chance to rid his life of drugs after accepting a plea agreement in Aroostook County Superior Court on Wednesday morning.
Joseph Degenhardt was indicted in July by the Aroostook County grand jury on charges of unlawful possession of scheduled drugs, a Class C offense punishable by up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine, and violation of conditions of release.
The indictment was amended Wednesday during his brief court appearance. Degenhardt pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of possession of a Schedule W drug, which is a Class D crime punishable by less than one year in prison and a fine of up to $2,000. The violation of conditions of release charge, which stemmed from a previous offense, was dropped.
Superior Court Justice E. Allen Hunter sentenced Degenhardt to 364 days in jail with all but 60 days suspended, which was counted as time served from the approximately 60 days he already spent in the Aroostook County Jail. He also is to continue to receive substance abuse counseling and pay a $400 fine.
Degenhardt’s attorney, Torrey Sylvester, told Hunter that his client had been undergoing inpatient substance abuse treatment before his arrest in June.
He has been in the Aroostook County Jail since being apprehended.
The latest charges were lodged after Degenhardt received a weekend pass to leave the treatment facility in southern Maine.
Sylvester said the 19-year-old got into his car and drove to Aroostook County. When he got to Houlton, he was stopped by police and arrested after officers discovered he had a small amount of hydrocodone pills.
His attorney gave no details about where Degenhardt got the pills.
Degenhardt spent more than 60 days in jail before Wednesday’s hearing.
Sylvester told Hunter that the incident involving the pills was “a slip” in his client’s recovery process. He added that Degenhardt has been accepted back into a treatment program and would return there when the charges were cleared up.
Upon questioning from Hunter, Degenhardt said this was the longest time he had ever spent in jail. He said he did not like it and did not want to return.
“I agree, it was just a slip,” he told Hunter.
Aroostook County Assistant District Attorney Patrick Gordon said he would accept the plea agreement.
Degenhardt also will have to abstain from using drugs and alcohol and submit to random search and testing.