HOULTON, Maine — A Maine State Police sergeant summoned in late June for operating her state police cruiser while under the influence of alcohol acknowledged Monday that she has a problem with alcohol and is getting the help she needs.
While Sgt. Julie Bergan will lose her license for 90 days and pay a $500 fine, she avoided jail time recommended by Aroostook County District Attorney Todd Collins and instead will take part in a first offender OUI alternative sentencing program in Penobscot County.
Bergan was sentenced Monday evening by District Court Judge Bernard O’ Mara. The judgment came after Bergan’s attorney, Michael Harman of Millinocket, argued unsuccessfully to challenge the administration and results of field sobriety and intoxilyzer tests conducted on Bergan on June 28.
Under Maine law, people may be issued an OUI summons when they are found driving a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol content of 0.08 percent or more.
Bergan’s blood alcohol content was 0.15. The test was conducted more than three hours after she reported for work.
Several of Bergan’s colleagues took the stand Monday afternoon to testify that they saw Bergan behaving erratically and out of character when she arrived for work that morning.
Trooper Chad Fuller testified that he heard Bergan talking loudly to his German shepherd canine, Glenni, in a nearby room. He said Bergan was holding the dog’s choke collar as he tried to get away, petting him, repeating words and also kissing the dog’s head.
Fuller said he had only had the dog 20 days and was afraid the animal would feel endangered and bite. Fuller called his supervisor, Lt. Mark Brooks, and reported his concerns. He said he did not want to jump to conclusions about her behavior, but knew it was something he had to tell Brooks about.
Brooks is on military leave and acting Lt. John Cote has taken his place.
Cote was present June 28.
He testified that Brooks asked Bergan to come into his office. Cote said Bergan appeared to be unsteady on her feet, had droopy eyes and her face appeared swollen. He said Bergan denied that she had been drinking or had taken prescribed or illegal drugs. Cote said she gave short, one-word answers to questions.
Trooper Tim Saucier first encountered Bergan in the parking lot at the police barracks that day. He said her mannerisms didn’t seem right and he smelled alcohol on her breath. He got in his cruiser and also contacted Brooks about Bergan. He stayed in the parking lot to make sure she didn’t get behind the wheel.
It was Saucier who was asked to perform field sobriety and intoxilyzer tests on Bergan. She told him she had last consumed alcohol at 9 p.m. on June 27, having had two glasses of red wine and two glasses of white wine. She told him the medications she was on did not interact with alcohol.
Collins asked O’Mara to sentence Bergan to seven days in jail, along with a $500 fine and a 90-day license suspension.
Harman argued that Bergan should receive a $500 fine, 90-day license suspension and participation in the first offender OUI alternative sentencing program in Penobscot County.
The sheriff’s office holds the program four times a year, and it lasts 48 hours. It includes more than six hours of discussion about alcohol and substance abuse at night with licensed counselors, community service at a school and no contact with family or friends. The men and women sleep in separate rooms on cots.
Bergan said in court that she did not know she was intoxicated that morning when she woke up. She told O’Mara that she has an alcohol problem and has not had a drink since June 28. She also has taken part in the state’s Driver Education and Evaluation Programs for OUI offenders.
Bergan is a 24-year veteran of the Maine State Police. Collins said Monday evening that he was unsure of the status of Bergan’s job.