BANGOR, Maine — A Norridgewock man who admitted that he traded guns for drugs with a Massachusetts man was sentenced Thursday to 10 years in prison, the statutory maximum, in U.S. District Court.
U.S District Judge John Woodcock sternly rebuked Douglas Stebbins Jr., 28, as the defendant’s parents Douglas Stebbins Sr. and Holly Stebbins of Norridgewock held each other and wept behind their son.
Stebbins waived indictment and pleaded guilty in June 2010 to one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm after being arrested and charged in Massachusetts with unlawful possession of two firearms, according to court documents.
Two felony convictions in Maine — one for drug trafficking — prevented Stebbins from having guns.
“One of the circumstances I find most egregious,” Woodcock told Stebbins before imposing the sentence, “is that you used a straw man who was addicted to drugs to [buy] guns that were small, easily concealable weapons.”
That straw man was Williams C. Wheeler II, 30, of Skowhegan. He was sentenced in February to two years in federal prison for buying guns for another individual and lying on applications to buy firearms, according to court documents.
Wheeler told investigators he bought 16 guns for Stebbins, according to Supervising Assistant U.S. Attorney Todd Lowell. Stebbins had admitted to obtaining nine guns through Wheeler, his attorney, Matthew Erickson of Brewer, said Thursday.
“Just three of those guns have been recovered,” Woodcock said. “That means there are six to 13 guns loose on the streets of Massachusetts likely to cause substantial mischief and heartache.”
The judge told the defendant that the only thing in the case he found even more disturbing is the fact that while he was being held at the Piscataquis County Jail awaiting sentencing, Stebbins conspired with his girlfriend, Gretchen Gordon, 18, of Anson to smuggle Suboxone strips into the jail.
Gordon, Stebbins and two others were charged with attempted trafficking in prison contraband. Stebbins is scheduled to be sentenced on that charge Oct. 24 in Piscataquis County Superior Court, Woodcock said Thursday.
“If there was ever a time when a defendant was going to be good,” Woodcock chastised Stebbins, “it is while he is awaiting sentencing on a federal crime. But you and your girlfriend tried to smuggle drugs into the Picataquis County Jail. Even more shocking is that your girlfriend brought your 6-year-old daughter along when committing this crime.”
Gordon is not the girl’s mother, according to information revealed in court.
In closing, Woodcock told Stebbins he was lucky federal prosecutors had charged him with just one count of the crime. If not for the mandatory maximum sentence, Stebbins would have faced between 14 and 17½ years in federal prison the judge said.
Prosecutor Lowell recommended Stebbins serve 10 years. Defense attorney Erickson recommended he serve between 7½ and eight years due to his age.
Stebbins apologized to his family and emphatically stated that he would not appear before Woodcock again.
“I understand that what I did was wrong,” he said. “I understand that there are victims in this crime. I want to honestly say that I will never traffic drugs or guns again. I’m not going back to jail again. I’m going to learn a skill in jail and when I get out, be there for my daughter.”
Stebbins’ family did not address the court Thursday but did submit letters in support of him, which Woodcock said he had read and considered in deciding on the sentence.
Stebbins was arrested on Jan. 28, 2008, during a traffic stop in Holden, Mass., according to the prosecution version of events to which he pleaded guilty. He admitted that he intended to trade the guns with John Polydores, 28, of Worcester, Mass.
Information about the status of the Massachusetts case against Polydores was unavailable late Thursday. Before being returned to Maine in June 2010 to face federal charges, Stebbins was held at the Worster House of Corrections in West Boyston, Mass., according to court documents.