AUGUSTA — A city man pleaded guilty Wednesday to two pharmacy robbery charges a day after being sentenced in federal court for his involvement in selling 37 oxycodone pills.
At a brief hearing in Kennebec County Superior Court on Wednesday, Michael C. Pierce, 33, was sentenced to five years in prison with all but two years suspended and three years’ probation. The sentence is to run at the same time as the 10 months he was ordered to spend in federal prison for illegal distribution of oxycodone.
The sentence imposed by Justice Michaela Murphy was recommended by both Assistant District Attorney Joelle Pratt and Pierce’s attorney, Sherry Tash.
Pratt said police suspected Pierce was involved in a May 8, 2012, robbery of CVS Pharmacy on Stone Street and questioned him shortly after a June 18, 2012, robbery of CVS Pharmacy on Capitol Street.
In both cases, the robber used a note threatening to shoot pharmacy employees if they didn’t provide the oxycodone.
Information from investigators indicated Pierce did the May 8 robbery and helped Jeffrey Hodgkins, the man who pleaded guilty to the June 18, 2012, by providing a disguise and waiting nearby in a vehicle. Hodgkins later died of an accidental drug overdose.
Police recovered the items used to disguise the robbers’ identity from the back of a speaker in Pierce’s home.
Tash told the judge that Pierce is expected to be released from custody once he serves the 10-month federal imprisonment because he has been held since June 2012 on the robbery charges. Tash also said she was told he would be serving that sentence in New Hampshire.
Murphy told Pierce that while the state law indicates he should be credited with the time he has already served, it was up to the jails to calculate. “None of us can tell you how much credit you are entitled to,” she said.
Conditions of probation ban Pierce from using illegal drugs and alcohol and from entering any CVS pharmacy in Maine. “If you use drugs or violate probation, you can go back and serve the balance of five years,” Murphy warned him.
Except for acknowledging that he was pleading guilty willingly and that he was giving up his trial rights, Pierce said little in court.
Tash told the judge that Pierce’s family was in the courtroom to indicate their support for him. However, they did not address the judge at the hearing. Pierce’s father, Albert Pierce, said afterward they did not want to comment.
Pratt said the pharmacy employees were contacted about the hearing and did not want to attend. She said they also had no opinion on the sentence recommendation.
On Tuesday, Pierce was sentenced by Chief Judge John A. Woodcock Jr. in U.S. District Court in Bangor on the drug distribution charge.
The drug transaction occurred May 9, 2012, near Interstate 95 in West Gardiner, and the deal was recorded by a confidential informant and involved an undercover agent, according to the government’s version of the offense, filed by Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew McCormack.
That document in U.S. District Court in Bangor says the pills were bought from Jennifer Dowling, who pleaded guilty to illegal distribution of oxycodone in late January in U.S. District Court in Bangor and is awaiting sentencing. Pierce was driving the vehicle Dowling was riding in, McCormack says.
In both robberies, the robber wore a fake beard and a wig and demanded oxycodone from the pharmacist. McCormack’s memo in federal court indicates Pierce wrote the demand note and provided the disguise to Hodgkins for the June 18, 2012, robbery.
“At the May 8 robbery, the robber handed the pharmacist a note that read: â€˜Do not touch note I have gun will shoot if not given what I want I want all your Oxycodone 10mg, 15mg, 20mg, 30mg, Oparas (sic) there is another person in here with gun and will shoot if alarm is hit do not call police until 60 seconds after I’m out of store I want all no games.’”
In a sentencing memo in federal court, defense attorney Hunter Tzovarras wrote, “Now 33 years old, and 21 months sober, Mr. Pierce is reï¬‚ective of what led him to jail, and ready to move forward with his life and again become a productive member of his family and society.”
Tzovarras’ memo says Pierce’s mother died when he was 13, and he began using marijuana several years later. “His drug use and addiction steadily deepened over the years. It grew to include daily use of cocaine and opiates.”