AUBURN, Maine — A judge apologized Wednesday to a Lewiston man before sentencing him to time served and a year of probation on five burglary charges.
“You slipped through the cracks,” Androscoggin County Superior Court Justice MaryGay Kennedy told Daniel Ouellette.
Kennedy said the fact that Ouellette sat in jail for more than 10 months after he was picked up on a probation violation was “absolutely unacceptable.”
Ouellette, 49, had complained during his time behind bars that he wasn’t getting the services he needed, including proper mental and physical health care. He has a civil lawsuit pending against the Androscoggin County sheriff, the jail administrator and jail health providers.
Kennedy said she believed Ouellette benefited from his time in jail because he was forced to become sober and had time to “marshal your thoughts.”
“You’re obviously an extremely intelligent man,” Kennedy told Ouellette, who wore a Rolling Stones T-shirt illustrated by red lips and tongue.
While sympathetic to Ouellette’s long jail stint, Kennedy said he owed an apology for his criminal behavior that included burglaries of five businesses across the mid-Maine region.
In November 2011, Ouellette burgled Bessey Insurance offices in Buckfield, prying open a lockbox and taking cash, Assistant District Attorney Andrew Matulis said.
He also broke into the Hebron Town Hall to steal a safe and stole cash from the American Mortgage Building in Turner that month, Matulis said.
In April last year, he pried open a door at H&R Block in Lewiston and took money from a safe. A month later, he broke a door at Creative Expressions in Lewiston and took a cash register, Matulis said.
Ouellette admitted to the crimes.
Matulis was seeking a sentence of seven years in prison with all but three years suspended, plus three years of probation for two of the burglaries. Each of those Class B crimes is punishable by up to 10 years in prison. For the other three burglaries, Matulis asked for maximum sentences of five years for each with all but three years suspended, plus two years of probation. Each sentence would run at the same time, he said. Matulis also asked the judge for restitution to repay the businesses for their lost cash and damages.
Kennedy ordered Ouellette to pay $100 restitution to each of the five victims.
Matulis cited Ouellette’s prior criminal convictions dating back to the early 1980s, including at least eight burglaries and several thefts.
Donald Hornblower, Ouellette’s attorney, said his client had turned his life around, recently staying out of jail pending trial.
Twice married with a 30-year-old daughter, Ouellette is a loner, Hornblower said. Shortly after Ouellette was born, his mother committed suicide, Hornblower said. Ouellette has borderline personality disorder, suffering from a sense of abandonment along with a host of other mental and physical health problems, Hornblower said.
Ouellette started self-medicating when he was 14 and soon ran afoul of the law. He completed high school and one semester of college.
Ouellette was most successful when he worked at the Sugarloaf/USA ski resort, living in the Farmington area, away from the negative influences of an urban setting, Hornblower said. Ouellette hopes to finish college and become financially independent.
“This is truly the most unique circumstance I’ve had to deal with” since becoming a judge, Kennedy said.
“What I hear from you today is hope,” Kennedy said before sentencing Ouellette to two years in prison with all of it suspended except the time he has served in jail. He must submit to searches if he arouses suspicions and he must get mental health counseling, Kennedy said.
“I wish you the best of luck,” Kennedy said. “Actually, I hope I never see you again.”