MACHIAS, Maine — Several drug felonies and forfeitures involving a father and son from Pembroke were dismissed this week in Washington County Superior Court by Justice E. Allen Hunter when the state was not prepared to go forward.
The charges had been levied more than two years ago against Thomas Wentworth and his son, Justin Wentworth.
The Wentworths were initially indicted on several counts each of unlawful trafficking in scheduled drugs, each a Class B felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
Maine Drug Enforcement Agency officers raided the men’s homes on Old County Road in Pembroke in January 2008, according to published reports in the Bangor Daily News. The agents allegedly seized prescription narcotics and marijuana from Thomas Wentworth’s home, and drugs, marijuana, cash, firearms and a pickup truck from Justin Wentworth’s residence. MDEA reported at the time that the value of the drugs was almost $3,000.
“Both have vehemently denied the charges,” Thomas Wentworth’s attorney, Don Brown, said Wednesday, “and both have been under strict bail conditions for two years. The case has been pending for over two years.”
Brown said the Wentworths’ bail conditions included, for the first year, requiring them to drive to Pleasant Point each day and check in with the Pleasant Point Police Department. For the second year they have been required to call in to the police department each day, an action that was broadcast daily over police scanners.
The trial had been expected to get under way Tuesday, despite several motions for a speedy trial filed when the Wentworths were charged in 2008.
On Monday, however, the night before jury selection was to begin, Deputy District Attorney Carletta Bassano filed a motion to continue. That was followed on Tuesday by a motion on behalf of the defendants to dismiss the case based on the court’s failure to provide the Wentworths with a speedy trial.
Brown said that since the start of the case, at least four prosecutors have been directly involved, and the last minute motion to continue was based on the unavailability of anyone in the district attorney’s office to prosecute “a case of this complexity.” The ADA assigned to the case was unable to go forward because of a death in her family.
As jury selection unfolded Tuesday morning, Brown said, First District Attorney Paul Cavanaugh conceded that a crucial witness for the state had not been subpoenaed and that the state was not ready to proceed. He refused to select a jury.
Telephone calls to Cavanaugh on Tuesday were not returned.
Justice Hunter denied the defendants’ motion to dismiss, denied the state’s motion for a continuance and dismissed the case, without prejudice, due to the state not being prepared to proceed.
“We are grateful for the dismissal but are concerned that it was without prejudice,” Brown said. “Everyone is upset. These are serious issues.”