June 22, 2018
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Trial begins for man accused of crashing truck into convenience store to steal lottery tickets, cigarettes

By Judy Harrison, BDN Staff

BANGOR, Maine — The Penobscot County district attorney called the burglary and theft last summer at a Corinth convenience store where cigarettes and a lottery ticket dispenser were stolen “a brazen crime” in which Michael W. Chapman, 38, participated.

The defense attorney for the Sanford man, who is accused of being part of a quartet that backed a stolen pickup truck into the front doors of the A.E. Robinson store on Route 15, set the truck ablaze and later headed to Auburn to cash in the lottery tickets, said his client may be guilty of receiving stolen property but not other crimes.

Jurors will have to decide which version of events has been proved beyond a reasonable doubt. The trial is expected to last all week.

His trial got underway Monday afternoon before Superior Court Justice William Anderson at the Penobscot Judicial Center. A jury of eight men and six women, including two alternates, was seated about 1 p.m. Monday.

Chapman, 38, was indicted in August by a Penobscot County grand jury on one count each of arson, burglary, aggravated criminal mischief and theft by unauthorized taking in connection with the June 22 incident.

Robert L. Mason, 29, of Corinna; Rosemary Peterson, 26, and Clifford John Sprague, 35, both of Exeter were indicted on the same charges.

Sprague, who was scheduled to go on trial Monday, instead pleaded guilty to those charges and violation of condition of release in a plea agreement with the Penobscot County district attorney’s office. Almy said before Chapman’s trial started that he would recommend Sprague serve 12 years behind bars.

A sentencing date has not been set.

The two other cases are pending.

District Attorney R. Christopher Almy showed the jury footage captured on surveillance cameras the night of the burglary during his opening statement. The images showed a pickup truck between gasoline pumps at 1:54 a.m. June 22.

Two people wearing jackets, masks and gloves jumped out and lowered the tailgate. The driver, who had remained in the truck, backed up into the front doors of the store.

Cameras in the cash register area captured the two people who had gotten out of the truck putting cartons of cigarettes into what appeared to be a plastic garbage bag. As the duo was about to leave, one of the men grabbed the lottery ticket dispenser on the counter and carried it out. The video showed the men putting the bags and dispenser into the back of the pickup, then getting inside as the driver left the property.

Almy also showed pictures of the burned truck, found on fire a couple of miles from the store after a woman called 911 to report a burning vehicle outside her home shortly after 2 a.m. In the bed of the truck was broken glass and signs that had been on the door, including one that said, “No shoes. No shirt. No service.”

The stolen lottery tickets led investigators to the quartet, who went to Auburn to redeem them, according to a previously published report. All four were arrested within hours of the June 22 break-in.

Sprague, Peterson and Mason were arrested at a house in Auburn where lottery tickets were found in Sprague’s van and cartons of cigarettes were found hidden in a washing machine, defense attorney Seth Harrow of Bangor told the jury in his opening statement. Chapman was arrested at a house in Levant where he was staying.

Police found four to six cartons of cigarettes there, but nothing else to tie Chapman to the burglary, Harrow said. No DNA evidence was found at the store or in the stolen truck to link Chapman to the break-in, theft and arson, the defense attorney said.

The 2002 GMC Sierra pickup truck used in the burglary was reported stolen from Kaufman Motors in Corinna a few days before it was crashed into the A.E. Robinson store in Corinth. Sprague has been charged in connection with that theft in Piscataquis County, according to a previously published report. He has pleaded not guilty in that case.

Chapman has remained at the Penobscot County Jail since his arrest unable to make $5,000 cash bail.

If convicted, Chapman and his two co-defendants face up to 30 years in prison and a fine of up to $50,000 on the arson charge alone.

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