PORTLAND, Maine — One day after a Buxton man was sentenced to 66 months in federal prison in connection with a drug and gun operation allegedly run by his father, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court ruled that a state case against the patriarch will get a partial doover.
In a decision published Thursday, the court agreed with Buxton resident Dale Pinkham Sr.’s contention that the state erred when it did not provide specific weights of the heroin he was charged with trafficking in 2013.
The state alleged three identical charges of trafficking in scheduled drugs, but put forward different and distinct aggravating factors to enhance the charge from a Class B offense to a Class A offense, the court determined.
In the decision, Justice Andrew Mead wrote that he agreed with Pinkham’s arguments that proof of specific weights of actual heroin – not mixtures or compounds containing some amount of heroin — is required to elevate the charge.
Pinkham, 55, entered conditional guilty pleas on the three trafficking counts, and was found guilty on the aggravating factors following a trial. He was sentenced to 14 years in prison, with seven years suspended.
The decision vacates the convictions, and remands the case back to York County Superior Court, where Pinkham may withdraw his guilty pleas to the three counts, the decision states.
The judgment on other counts, including possession of a firearm by a prohibited person, were affirmed by the high court.
According to the published decision, on Dec. 6, 2013, Maine Drug Enforcement Agency agents executed a search warrant at Pinkham’s Buxton residence. They found 20.75 grams of a powder testing positive for heroin as well as several firearms – including a loaded .44 Magnum revolver – and $3,800 in cash.
When agents interviewed Pinkham that evening, he admitted that the heroin was his, and that he used some and regularly sold it as well – but he claimed the guns belonged to his son, according to court documents.
Pinkham also faces charges in federal court in connection with a multi-state heroin trafficking ring allegedly operated by Pinkham; his son, Dale Pinkham Jr.; and others.
The U.S. District Court, which sentenced Dale Pinkham Jr. to 66 months in federal prison Wednesday, has scheduled the senior Pinkham to stand trial on Sept. 6.
His federal charges include conspiracy to distribute and possess heroin, conspiracy to possess one or more stolen firearms, three counts of possession of one or more stolen firearms, three counts of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, four counts of attempted witness tampering, and one count of obstruction of justice.