BANGOR, Maine — A local man charged in connection with the abduction of a former girlfriend in October told a judge Thursday at the Penobscot Judicial Center that he wants to withdraw his guilty pleas and go to trial.
Roger Eldridge, 49, of Bangor, who pleaded guilty May 7 to kidnapping and domestic violence stalking as his jury trial was about to begin, was not allowed to withdraw his pleas Thursday, but he was appointed a new attorney.
District Court Judge Gregory Campbell told Eldridge that he would consider the defendant’s request in October or November. The judge said that once his new attorney, Hunter Tzovarras of Bangor, is familiar with the case and Campbell has had time to review a transcript of the hearing at which Eldridge entered his pleas, a hearing date would be set.
Michael Roberts, deputy district attorney for Penobscot County, objected to Eldridge withdrawing his pleas. The prosecutor told Campbell that Eldridge was fully informed of his rights in May. Roberts also said that the delay in going to trial would be prejudicial to the state.
Eldridge was expected to be sentenced Aug. 13 to 13 years in prison with all but 2½ years suspended followed by five years of probation. He was indicted in January on one count each of gross sexual assault, kidnapping and assault.
In a plea agreement with Roberts’ office, the assault charges were to be dismissed at sentencing.
Eldridge entered an Alford plea, according to defense attorney Matthew Erickson of Brewer. This type of plea — named for the U.S. Supreme Court case North Carolina v. Alford, decided in 1970 — is “a guilty plea that a defendant enters as part of a plea bargain, without actually admitting guilt,” according to Black’s Law Dictionary.
The victim did not appear in court Thursday or last week but submitted an impact statement, Campbell said. The judge last week gave Eldridge eight days to decide if he wanted to take the deal or withdraw his pleas and go to trial and face all the charges, including gross sexual assault.
Eldridge has been held since his arrest on Oct. 29 at the Penobscot County Jail unable to post $30,000 cash bail. He was returned to the jail after his court appearance Thursday.
The defendant showed up at the Langley Street home of his former girlfriend on Oct. 28, according to a previously published report. After the woman got into his car to speak with him for a few minutes, Eldridge said he wanted to go for a ride and began to drive off. The woman asked to be let out of the vehicle but Eldridge did not do so, instead taking her to his State Street apartment.
Eldridge eventually said he would take her home but while driving on Interstate 95, he became aggressive, according to court documents. In her effort to draw attention to what was happening, the woman opened the car door.
He drove up and down the interstate with the victim in his car for quite some time refusing to stop and let her out, Bangor police said in October, and the victim reported that she had tried several times to get out as the car was moving but could not.
The woman told police that she asked to be let out several times, but Eldridge refused to stop, according to a previously published report. The woman said she was in fear for her life because Eldridge allegedly threatened to kill her and himself.
As the vehicle was headed northbound on I-95 near Denny’s restaurant, the victim was finally able to escape from the car by pulling the emergency brake, Roberts told the judge. The woman then ran to Denny’s and went inside the restaurant for help. A restaurant employee called the police.
Eldridge faces up to 30 years in prison and a fine of up to $50,000 on the Class A kidnapping and gross sexual assault charges.