June 25, 2018
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Last defendant graduates from defunct Bangor drug court

John Clarke Russ | BDN
John Clarke Russ | BDN
Michael Roberts, deputy district attorney for Penobscot County
By Judy Harrison, BDN Staff

BANGOR, Maine — Todd Robertson is the last of his kind.

The 30-year-old restaurant worker is not the last person to be charged with drug trafficking in Penobscot County but he is the final defendant to graduate from its drug court.

The Penobscot County Drug Court was shuttered by the judiciary on July 1 when it decided to shift funding from the program based in Bangor to the Co-occurring Disorders Court in Kennebec County.

Robertson completed the program in Ellsworth through the Hancock County Drug Court.

The Bangor resident attended his last court session Nov. 14 at the Penobscot Judicial Center, where his felony drug trafficking charge was dismissed and he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor drug trafficking charge. Superior Court Justice William Anderson sentenced Robertson to 11 months in prison, suspended, and a year of probation. The judge also imposed the mandatory $400 fine.

Roberton was arrested for the first and only time Feb. 16, 2011, after selling oxycodone to an undercover officer with Maine Drug Enforcement Agency, according to a previously published report.

“I was only looking at nine months,” Robertson said Nov. 14 during a small celebration in his honor in the courthouse in Bangor. “That would have been an easy out. I knew drug court could help me. I knew I wouldn’t learn anything by just going to jail. And, I wanted to change my life.”

Robertson said his addiction to prescription painkillers began slowing in 2001 when he was 19. It spiralled out of control seven years later.

“When my brother was killed in Afghanistan, my disease took a hold of me and went out of control,” he said. “I began selling Percocet in order to support my habit.”

Sgt. Nicholas Robertson, 27, of Holden was wounded April 2, 2008, while on a combat mission in the Zahn Khan District of Afghanistan and died as a result of his injuries the next day, at the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Landstuhl, Germany. An Airborne Ranger assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group at Fort Bragg, Nicholas Robertson was serving his second deployment to Afghanistan as a translator. His funeral April 11, 2008, in Brewer drew more than 100 people and was covered by the local media.

The last graduate of the Penobscot County Drug Court credited Wellspring Inc., a residential addiction treatment program in Bangor, with helping him stay off drugs for more than a year.

“The people there gave me a lot of the tools I needed to stay sober,” Robertson said. “There was counseling that helped, too.”

Todd Robertson said on the day of his graduation from drug court that his parents, David and Nancy Robinson, of Venice, Fla., were “absolutely thrilled” with the change he has made in this life even though they were unable to attend the graduation.

“They finally feel like they have their son back since my brother’s death, so they’re pretty happy,” he said.

Michael Roberts, deputy district attorney for Penobscot County, prosecuted Robertson and met with him weekly until the drug court in Bangor shut down. The prosecutor said the Penobscot County defendants who qualify for drug court still can participate in the program if they have transportation so they can get to Ellsworth.

“We’re trying to deal with people who would have qualified for drug court in Bangor through the normal probation process,” he said.

The Penobscot County Drug Court was the only one in the state to end, according to a previously published report. The state’s five other drug court programs will continue, as will the year-old Family Drug Court in Bangor. The other adult drug courts serve Cumberland, York, Androscoggin and Washington counties in addition to Hancock.

Most of the funding for the drug court program comes from the office of substance abuse, a division of the Maine Department of Health and Human Services. The program was implemented a decade ago with money from the Fund for a Healthy Maine, which came from the state’s share of a settlement with the tobacco industry, Mary Ann Lynch, spokeswoman for the court system, said in September.

Since the funding source for drug courts shifted to the General Fund a few years ago, the amount of money available has been reduced. The drug court program for juveniles was eliminated a few years ago.

Nearly $85,000 for substance abuse treatment and about $33,600 to cover the salary of a case manager previously allocated to the drug court in Bangor is now being used by the Co-occurring Disorders Court in Augusta, which was previously funded with federal grant money that was no longer available.

Efforts to fund a replacement program in Bangor failed earlier this year in the Legislature.

Robertson said that while he was happy to graduate from drug court, he also was saddened to be the last person to complete the program in Bangor.

“It’s sad really because I know there will be nobody else who will get the help that I received,” he said.

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