ELLSWORTH, Maine — A Hancock County man with an extensive criminal history is going back to prison for a decade.
James F. Grindel Jr., 44, was sentenced Thursday afternoon in Hancock County Superior Court to serve 10 years behind bars for his latest burglary conviction.
Grindel, bearded and wearing jail-issued clothing, softly said the word “guilty” seven times as Justice Kevin Cuddy read aloud each charge against him. The charges stem from Grindel’s repeated use of a stolen credit card to buy several hundred dollars’ worth of gasoline and an incident in March in which he was caught bur-glarizing a home in the Mount Desert village of Pretty Marsh.
Thursday’s proceeding contrasted with Grindel’s most recent appearance in the same courtroom to plead guilty to burglary. In 2002, with his parents present in a show of support, Grindel pleaded guilty in Hancock County Superior Court to 32 counts of burglary and theft and then offered an apology to the court for his criminal behavior.
On Thursday, Grindel made no apologies or explanations. With no friends or family having showed up and having said very little, Grindel slowly walked away from the defense table to begin serving his sentence.
“What do you do with a guy like this?” Grindel’s defense attorney, Jeff Toothaker of Ellsworth, said later outside the courtroom. “It’s almost as if he wants to go back [to prison].”
Hancock County District Attorney Michael Povich, the prosecutor in the case, said the 10-year sentence is appropriate, given Grindel’s criminal history.
“He just steals, whatever that compulsion is,” Povich said. “It’s apparently the rush that he gets when he hears the door break open.”
Grindel, a Bar Harbor native, was ordered to pay $808 in restitution for the illegally obtained gasoline. He will face no probation upon his release from prison because none of his sentence is suspended, according to the prosecutor.
Grindel served more than six consecutive years in prison until his release last November, Povich told the judge. Within a few months of his release, Grindel was using a stolen credit card to make repeated gasoline purchases at locations in Hancock and Penobscot counties. After Grindel’s arrest on March 10, police found video surveillance footage of him using the credit card at a service station in the area, Povich said.
On March 10, Grindel was caught burglarizing a Pretty Marsh home he had burglarized years ago when a caretaker for the property was notified about a silent alarm at the home that had been tripped, according to officials.
When the caretaker arrived, he found some of the home’s contents outside in the snow and saw Grindel coming out of the building. The caretaker already had called the police and told Grindel they were on their way, which prompted Grindel to get into his car and to use it to ram the caretaker’s vehicle, which was blocking his escape out the driveway.
The caretaker called police again and, while talking to the dispatcher, backed his vehicle out of the driveway as Grindel rammed it a few more times. When they reached the road, Grindel drove off with the caretaker behind him in a slow-speed chase that ended when Grindel was stopped by a marine patrol officer in neighboring Tremont.
According to Povich, police found in Grindel’s car antique postcards, a bowl, an ashtray, a glass jar and glass medicine bottles that he had taken from the home.
“Essentially, he was caught in the act,” Povich told the judge.
Grindel’s previous prison stay was for a string of burglaries he committed in Hancock County with Kevin Braley, who eventually was sentenced to serve four years in prison for the crimes. One of those burglaries included the theft of a statue from a home in Sorrento that the duo later resold to a southern Maine antiques dealer. The dealer soon resold the statue for $11,000. Within a few months, it was being offered for sale in New York City for $60,000 before police tracked it down.
Before that, Grindel had served three years in prison after pleading guilty to several burglaries in 1994. In one of those cases, a man who owned a Miami Dolphins jacket that had been stolen saw Grindel wearing it during a court appearance in Ellsworth. The man told sheriff’s deputies, who followed Grindel and saw him bur-glarize several cars in the Ellsworth City Hall parking lot across the street before placing him under arrest, according to officials.
Toothaker on Thursday told the judge that part of Grindel’s problems include a habit of smoking marijuana. Grindel is “personable,” Toothaker acknowledged, and most of his thefts have been of low-value items, but the multitude of his criminal convictions indicates that he has a significant behavioral problem.
“He has something wrong [in his head] that tells him to steal,” the defense attorney said. “It is the mountain he cannot get past.”