An Episcopal priest who has been serving at an Augusta church pleaded guilty Tuesday to a misdemeanor charge of possession of suboxone for mailing the prescription medication to two jail inmates.

The Rev. Stephen W. Foote, 70, of Bremen, was sentenced in Wiscasset District Court to 364 days in jail, with all but 45 days suspended, and one year of probation. The sentence was the result of a plea deal with the Attorney General’s Office; he had faced a felony charge of trafficking in prison contraband.

In a statement released Tuesday morning by his attorney, William Avantaggio, Foote said he was sentenced “for a crime that I did commit and for which I am heartily sorry.”

The Episcopal Diocese of Maine said Tuesday that Foote could face further disciplinary action within the church.

Authorities have said Foote mailed prescription drugs to inmates at Two Bridges Regional Jail in Wiscasset. Foote, who had been a transitional priest at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Augusta, was placed on leave by the diocese after police arrested him Nov. 1 and released him on bail.

Avantaggio said Foote will report to Two Bridges Jail on Saturday to begin serving the 45-day sentence and that he remains on leave from the church.

“What I did was not for personal gain,” Foote said in his statement. “In a moment of anxiety and concern for an inmate’s personal welfare and safety, I acted from my heart in forwarding through the mail prescription medication which had been sent to me. My error in judgment cannot be excused, and I am determined to make amends.”

Foote noted that under his sentence, he also will perform community service. Foote said he plans to use that time “to help create a regular group support system for families and friends of inmates in area jails and prison in midcoast Maine.”

“I deeply regret the harm and embarrassment my actions have brought the religious community and, especially, my friends and colleagues in the Episcopal Diocese of Maine and my bishop,” Foote said. “My actions reflect badly on the hundreds of people and clergy who engage in the important work of prison ministry throughout Maine.”

Neither Avantaggio nor Foote would comment further.

The Episcopal Diocese of Maine issued a statement following Tuesday’s court hearing, saying the diocese is beginning its own disciplinary process against Foote.

“The Episcopal Diocese of Maine welcomes the news of the resolution of the criminal case against Stephen Foote,” the diocese’s statement said.

The Rt. Rev. Stephen T. Lane, Bishop of Maine, asked that Maine Episcopalians “keep all those involved in their prayers as this situation approaches its conclusion,” the statement said.

James Pease, supervisor of the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency office covering Waldo, Knox, Lincoln and Sagadahoc counties, previously had said that Foote mailed suboxone strips to Joshua Theriault-Patten, 25, of Bremen, an inmate and friend. Suboxone typically is used to treat opiate addiction but can be abused. Authorities said inmate Adam Shawley, 27, of Newport, also was to receive some of the drugs through Theriault-Patten.

However, Deputy Attorney General William Stokes said neither inmate actually got the suboxone Foote mailed to the jail, so they were not charged.

The diocese said Foote retired as dean of the Cathedral Church of St. Luke in Portland in 2003. Before that, he was archdeacon of the diocese. Afterward, he served as a transitional priest at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Waterville, then was given the position in Augusta.

Both Theriault-Patten and Shawley remain in jail.

Theriault-Patten is serving an eight-year sentence, with all but three years suspended and three years of probation after his December 2010 convictions for robbery, theft and stealing drugs. He had been convicted previously of aggravated assault. He is serving his sentence at the Maine Correctional Center in Windham.

Shawley is serving a four-year sentence in the Maine State Prison in Warren for unlawful trafficking in scheduled drugs.

Betty Adams can be contacted at 621-5631 or at:
[email protected]