WISCASSET, Maine — An Episcopal priest from Augusta and two inmates at Two Bridges Regional Jail in Wiscasset have been charged with bringing illegal prescription drugs into the jail, according to police.
The Rev. Stephen Foote, 70, of Bremen allegedly smuggled the drug suboxone into the jail during the month of October, according to Lincoln County Sheriff’s Department Detective Michael Murphy.
Foote, who was arrested and bailed out of jail on Nov. 1, is charged with Class C trafficking in prison contraband. Charged with Class D attempted trafficking in prison contraband in the case are Joshua Theriault Patten, 25, of Bremen, who Murphy said is one of Foote’s parishioners, and Adam Shawley, 27, of Newport. Murphy said Patten and Shawley arranged for the drug to be mailed to Foote. Murphy would not comment on how Foote allegedly transferred the drugs to the inmates.
Murphy said suboxone is most commonly used to fight opiate addiction, though he said he suspects that Patten and Shawley were using it recreationally.
“As with a lot of other drugs such as methadone, it’s now being abused,” said Murphy. “The information we developed led us back to the reverend.”
The probe into the case lasted through most of October after an investigator at the jail learned of the alleged drug smuggling. Murphy said Foote visited with Patten often. Investigators seized about 80 milligrams of suboxone in the course of the investigation.
Murphy said Foote, who at the time of his arrest was the interim priest-in-charge at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Augusta, has admitted to the charges against him.
Heidi Shott, canon for communications in the Episcopal Diocese of Maine, said in a written statement to the Bangor Daily News on Wednesday that the Rt. Rev. Stephen T. Lane, bishop of the diocese, learned of Foote’s arrest on Nov. 1 and placed him on administrative leave pending the outcome of the criminal investigation.
Foote retired as dean of The Cathedral Church of St. Luke in Portland in 2003 and has been serving as the transitional priest-in-charge at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Augusta recently.
“The Diocese of Maine will cooperate fully with the criminal investigation,” reads the statement. “The arrest automatically engages our Title IV proceedings, the disciplinary process for clergy that is canonically required by the Episcopal Church. The bishop receives this news with sadness and deep concern, and requests that Maine Episcopalians keep all parties in their prayers as we move through these difficult days.”
Foote declined to comment Wednesday when reached at his home by telephone. He referred questions to Newcastle attorney William Avantaggio, who could not be reached immediately.
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that the Rev. Stephen Foote of Bremen is accused of trying to get drugs into the jail on two occasions. He is only accused of trying to smuggle drugs in on one occasion, according to William Avantaggio, a Damariscotta-based attorney who is representing Foote. Avantaggio said his understanding of the case is that Foote is accused of trying to mail drugs into the jail, which were intercepted, rather than carry them into the jail, which is what had been previously reported. Lincoln County Sheriff’s Department Lt. Michael Murphy said Friday that his office has been investigating the scope of the smuggling allegations but that Foote is charged with only one attempt. Murphy would not discuss what method Foote allegedly used.