Supreme court reinstates arson conviction in Corinth smash-and-grab burglary

Posted May 22, 2014, at 4:22 p.m.
Michael Chapman during his trial at the Penobscot Judicial Center in Bangor on April 21, 2013.
Gabor Degre | BDN
Michael Chapman during his trial at the Penobscot Judicial Center in Bangor on April 21, 2013.

BANGOR, Maine — The Maine Supreme Judicial Court on Tuesday reinstated the arson conviction of a Sanford man involved in a smash-and-grab burglary at a Corinth convenience store in June 2012.

Michael W. Chapman, 38, was convicted by a jury in April 2013 of arson, burglary, aggravated criminal mischief and theft by unauthorized taking. Superior Court Justice William Anderson set aside the arson conviction and sentenced Chapman on the other charges.

Chapman 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. He was sentenced in October to 3½ years in prison with all but two years suspended.

He is due to be released June 14 from the Downeast Correctional Facility in Machiasport, according to the prisoner locator site maintained by the Department of Corrections. Chapman was held at the Penobscot County Jail unable to make bail for a year prior to his conviction. That time was applied to his sentence.

District Attorney R. Christopher Almy last year appealed the judge’s decision to grant a defense motion of acquittal on the arson count. The high court heard oral arguments in April.

“The evidence demonstrates a scheme by Chapman and his associates not only to commit a burglary, but also to conceal their involvement in its undertaking and to avoid police detection,” Justice Joseph Jabar wrote for the unanimous court. “Viewed objectively, there was sufficient evidence to support a rational jury’s finding that the destroying of the stolen truck used to break into the store — a form of destroying evidence — was a ‘reasonably foreseeable consequence’ to Chapman’s participation in the burglary.”

A sentencing date has not been set.

Chapman faces up to 30 years in prison on the arson charge.

In addition to prison time, Anderson sentenced Chapman to two years of probation and ordered him to pay $1,000 in restitution to the A.E. Robinson store for damage done during the burglary.

Chapman must pay that amount, which is the amount the store owner paid that was not covered by insurance, along with other defendants.

He faced up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000 on the remaining charges.

Robert L. Mason, 28, of Corinna, Rosemary Peterson, 26, of Palmyra and Clifford John Sprague, 34, of Exeter were indicted on the same charges on which Chapman was tried.

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, 2012, at the store.

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. Testimony at Peterson’s trial showed the money from the lottery tickets was used to buy crack cocaine.

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 and West Corinth roads, police said in June 2012.

 

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