April 25, 2018
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Man sentenced in BAT bus shooting

By Judy Harrison, BDN Staff

BANGOR, Maine — A local man who in March shot a hole through a BAT Community Connector and an Aroostook County man who led a Penobscot County deputy sheriff on a high-speed chase five years ago were sentenced Tuesday in separate gun cases in U.S. District Court.

Jason Adam Robinson, 25, of Bangor was sentenced to a year and three months in federal prison for possessing a firearm after being convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence. His sentence was deferred until Jan. 14, according to court documents.

Robert J. Ventura, 39, of Fort Fairfield was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison for possession of a sawed-off shotgun and being a felon in possession of a firearm.

U.S. District Judge John Woodcock sentenced the men to three years of supervised release after each completes his prison term.

The incident that landed Robinson in federal court began March 3 when he boarded the regional transit system’s bus 44 in Bangor that headed toward Orono-Old Town, according to previously published reports.

“He appeared to have nodded off and when a police car passed the bus with its siren on he appeared to have awakened with a start and pulled a holstered gun from his jacket,” the prosecution version to which Robinson pleaded guilty said. “He said words to the effect of if cops boarded the bus he was going down or going out in a blaze of glory. A passenger on the bus told the defendant to put the gun away. As Robinson returned the gun to his jacket, it discharged, sending a round through the coat and out through the side of the bus.”

When the bus driver heard the gunshot, according to the prosecution version, he pulled the bus to the curb and the defendant stood up, saying it had been a firecracker. At least 20 passengers were on the bus at the time.

After the gun discharged, Robinson got off the bus near the intersection of Pine and State streets in Bangor, according to a previously published report. Bangor police and a state police trooper with a tracking dog searched the area but weren’t able to find Robinson.

About an hour after the shooting, Robinson got on another bus heading toward Orono-Old Town and was recognized by a passenger, who had been on the earlier bus when the weapon discharged, according to Bangor police. That passenger used his cell phone to call police, BAT Superintendent Joe McNeil said after the incident.

State police stopped the bus in Orono around 6 p.m. the same day. Robinson was arrested without incident.

Robinson later told police that he was showing off the weapon to passengers in the back of the bus when he accidentally fired the weapon while trying to put it back in his coat pocket. He said he was heading to Old Town to sell the weapon, a police report stated.

He was charged in state court with felony reckless conduct with a firearm. That charge was dismissed in May when a federal grand jury indicted Robinson, Michael Roberts, deputy district attorney for Penobscot County, said Tuesday.

Robinson has been free on bail and undergoing treatment for substance abuse, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, which prosecuted the case.

He faced up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 on the federal charge. If he had been prosecuted in state court, Robinson faced up to five years in state prison and a fine of up to $5,000.

Robinson was convicted on March 11, 2008, in Newport District Court of domestic violence assault. That conviction prevented him from possessing guns legally.

Although the high-speed chase that led to charges against Ventura took place on Nov. 20, 2005, the Fort Fairfield man was not indicted by a federal grand jury until July 2007, according to court documents. The incident began about 4 a.m. when the deputy tried to conduct a traffic stop on a truck driving erratically on Interstate 95 in Hampden, according the prosecution version of events to which Ventura pleaded guilty.

The driver of the pickup truck eventually lost control and crashed into a telephone pole on Route 69 in Carmel, then fled on foot. A K-9 team from the Maine State Police picked up Ventura’s trail and followed it into the nearby woods, where a sawed-off shotgun with an obliterated serial number was found. After finding the gun, the dog lost the scent.

DNA was recovered from the gun, truck and the garage near the crash site where Ventura apparently hid from police, according to the prosecution version. Ventura returned to Presque Isle in a pickup he found in the garage and hid it behind a local restaurant. In March 2007, the national DNA database matched the DNA recovered on the gun, crashed pickup and in the garage to Ventura’s DNA.

Ventura has been held without bail since his arrest in July 2007 on the federal charges. He also has undergone psychiatric evaluations while being detained. That time will be applied to his sentence.

He faced up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. Ventura’s long criminal history contributed to his receiving a maximum sentence, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

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