Craig Kneeland. Credit: Hancock County Jail

A Verona Island man has pleaded guilty in Hancock County Unified Criminal Court to charges stemming from a methamphetamine laboratory at his house and a resulting fire.

Craig D. Kneeland, 28, pleaded guilty Jan. 7 to charges of unlawful operation of a meth lab and aggravated criminal mischief, according to court documents. He is scheduled to be sentenced on the charges on Jan. 22.

Matthew Foster, district attorney for Hancock County, said Monday morning that the plea is part of a deal in which his office will recommend a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison with all but 5 years suspended and 3 years of probation after Kneeland is released.

Kneeland’s defense attorney, Robert Van Horn of Ellsworth, can argue for less time but it will be the judge who decides, Foster said.

Charges of aggravated operating a meth lab, arson and violating conditions of release were dismissed as part of the deal. He also pleaded guilty to prior drug possession charges and to a misdemeanor charge of failing to register his vehicle, according to court documents.

Van Horn did not respond to messages seeking comment on Kneeland’s case.

Kneeland was arrested last March after police got a tip that Kneeland, who was on bail from the earlier drug possession charges, was manufacturing meth at his home, which he shared with other people, including a five year-old child.

After stopping Kneeland outside a Bucksport hardware store — where he had purchased muriatic acid, batteries and other items typically used to manufacture the illegal drug — police searched his home and found 33 plastic bottles that had been used to make meth. They also found a loaded handgun in a kitchen cabinet and evidence that the home had caught on fire recently because of a drug-making session.

Court documents indicate that since his arrest, Kneeland has been getting treatment for drug abuse.

Bill Trotter

A news reporter in coastal Maine for more than 20 years, Bill Trotter writes about how the Atlantic Ocean and the state's iconic coastline help to shape the lives of coastal Maine residents and visitors....