Sanford man found guilty of crash-and-dash robbery at Corinth store

Posted April 25, 2013, at 8:04 p.m.
Last modified April 25, 2013, at 9:12 p.m.
Michael Chapman during his trial at the Penobscot Judicial Center in Bangor Monday.
Michael Chapman during his trial at the Penobscot Judicial Center in Bangor Monday.

BANGOR, Maine — A Sanford man who was part of a quartet accused of backing a stolen pickup truck into the front doors of a Corinth convenience store, taking cigarettes and a lottery ticket dispenser and later setting the truck on fire to cover up the crimes last June was found guilty Thursday after a four-day jury trial at the Penobscot Judicial Center.

Michael W. Chapman, 38, was indicted in August by a Penobscot County grand jury on charges of arson, burglary, aggravated criminal mischief and theft by unauthorized taking.

After deliberating for four hours, a 12-member jury found Chapman guilty of all charges. The theft charge was elevated to Class C felony status because the jury determined that the dollar value of the cigarettes and lottery tickets exceeded $1,000.

During their deliberations, jurors asked to review surveillance video footage from the store that was robbed which showed two people wearing jackets, masks and gloves jumping out of a truck and then the driver backing up into the store’s front doors.

Cameras in the cash register area recorded 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 two were 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.

Jury members also asked to revisit audio recordings of telephone calls that Chapman made from jail.

Jurors’ request to take notes, however, was denied by Superior Court Justice William Anderson because, he said, they had not taken notes during any other part of the proceedings.

On the opening day of the trial, Chapman’s defense attorney, Seth Harrow of Bangor, said that his client may be guilty of receiving property but not the other crimes.

Harrow argued that police found four to six cartons of cigarettes at the time of Chapman’s arrest but nothing else to tie his client to the burglary.

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.

Robert L. Mason, 28, of Corinna and Rosemary Peterson, 26, and Clifford John Sprague, 34, both of Exeter, were indicted on the same charges.

Sprague, who was scheduled to be tried Monday, pleaded guilty to those charges as well as violation of condition of release in a plea agreement with the Penobscot County district attorney’s office.

Sentencing dates have not been set for Chapman or Sprague.

The two other cases are pending.

“The [Maine] State Police put a lot of hard work into this,” Almy said after the verdict was delivered about 7 p.m. “It’s nice to see that they worked with the state fire marshal’s office, the [Penobscot County] Sheriff’s Office.

“This caper was pretty bizarre, brazen, and the state police really went to the mat to investigate this,” Almy said.

Harrow declined to comment.

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 early morning break-in June 22 at the store, owned by A.E. Robinson.

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, Harrow told the jury in his opening statement.

Chapman was arrested at a house in Levant where he was staying.

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 store. Shortly after the break-in, the truck was found ablaze at the intersection of Black Road and West Corinth Road, police said in June.

Chapman faces up to 30 years in prison and a fine of up to $50,000 on the arson charge alone, according to previous stories in the Bangor Daily News archives.

Chapman had been held at the Penobscot County Jail since his arrest, unable to make $5,000 cash bail. He was returned to the county lockup after the conclusion of his trial, a jail official confirmed Thursday night.

Bangor Daily News writer Judy Harrison contributed to this report.

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