Thursday, April 24, 2014
By Matt Hongoltz-Hetling firstname.lastname@example.org
WINSLOW — While a 21-year-old man was being booked on three drug-related charges last weekend at the Winslow police station, a bag of pills fell out of his shorts, leading to additional charges, according to police.
The arrest was the latest in what police have called a renewed effort to combat illegal drug use in the town.
Shortly before 1 a.m. Sunday, former Winslow High School honor student Lyle Etienne Bernier, of Vassalboro, was a passenger in a vehicle that was pulled over for a traffic violation on Clinton Avenue by Sgt. Haley Fleming and Officer Nicholas Raymond.
"There was a very strong scent of raw marijuana inside the vehicle," Fleming said.
Fleming said he and his partner arrested Bernier after they discovered a large amount of marijuana and hashish, both illegal cannabis products.
The vehicle's driver was not charged, Bernier said.
A preliminary weighing indicated 4.3 grams of hashish and 165 grams of marijuana, which Fleming called "a very large marijuana seizure."
"That's a good freezer bag full," he said.
While Bernier was being processed at the police station, Fleming said, "a big bag of pills fell out of his shorts and fell in the booking area in front of Officer Raymond and I."
Fleming quoted Bernier as saying "Oh, and there's that," when the pills, later determined to be the stimulant Adderall, hit the ground.
Of the 88.5 Adderall pills recovered, Fleming said, some were 20 milligrams and others were 25, leading to two counts of aggravated furnishing of a scheduled W drug. Each count carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $20,000 fine.
In connection to the marijuana, Bernier has been charged with aggravated furnishing of a scheduled Z drug, for which the maximum sentence is five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
The smaller amount of hashish has drawn a charge of possession of a scheduled X drug, punishable by up to 364 days in prison and a $2,000 fine.
Bernier also was charged with sale and use of drug paraphernalia, a civil violation.
The drug charges were elevated to "aggravated" because the vehicle was pulled over in a school safe zone. Bernier was considered to be furnishing, Fleming said, because of the large amount of drugs.
"The amount that he had indicates he was selling," Fleming said. "Nobody's going to have 165 grams of marijuana for their own use. It's not reality."
Police also recovered an undisclosed amount of cash from Bernier.
Bernier was released at the police station on $60 bail, but his unsecured bail is set at $7,500, the amount that he will be assessed should he fail to make a court date of June 25 at Kennebec Superior Court in Augusta.
In March, in the aftermath of a high-profile arrest that resulted in 10 charges of drug possession levied against 32-year-old Casey Bellows, of Winslow, police said that it marked the beginning of a renewed effort to combat illegal drug use in the town, which they said has been increasing over the last several years.
Earlier this month, Somer Mongeon, 34, of Dixmont, and Clarence Corson, 45, of Norridgewock, were arrested and charged with aggravated trafficking after allegedly conducting a sale of prescription drugs in a school safe zone.
On April 8, Alex Kanaris, 22, of Winslow, was arrested on three drug-related charges.
"We're here and working to rid the community of this dangerous situation," Fleming said.
He said a single arrest can have a chilling effect on other dealers in the area who might have some connection to the detainee.
"It may deter others for a while, because they don't know who else is being investigated," he said.
Fleming said the department is working on several drug-related investigations.
Bernier's academic and criminal history suggest a talented student who has repeatedly run afoul of drug laws.
Before graduating Winslow High School in 2009, he was named to the honor roll in 2006 as a freshman and in 2007 as a sophomore. He received an honorable mention in 2008 as a senior.
In 2010, Bernier, then 18, was ordered to pay a $350 fine in Augusta District Court for possession of marijuana. That same year, he was ordered to pay another $350 for another possession of marijuana charge in Newport District Court.
On Bernier's Facebook page, a post from Sunday uses a derogatory term to describe Winslow police and asks why they "waste my time arresting me after a national holiday."
Fleming said the holiday Bernier is referring to is April 20, known in circles of marijuana enthusiasts as "4/20," a time for celebrating cannabis.
Matt Hongoltz-Hetling — 861-9287