AUGUSTA — A city woman completed a specialty court program Monday and earned a good result, avoiding 15 months in prison and having other charges reduced or dismissed.
Michelle L. Barto, 36, had entered the Co-Occurring Disorders and Veterans Court, which is held at the Capital Judicial Center, on Nov. 3, 2015.
At the time, she pleaded guilty to unlawful trafficking in oxycodone that occurred in Wiscasset Oct. 28-30, 2014, and to felony-level theft that occurred Oct. 13, 2015, in Augusta and a charge of violating conditions of release.
The case was continued for sentencing. If she succeeded in meeting the stringent court requirements, she would be sentenced to a fully suspended three years in prison and two years probation, and the felony theft would be reduced to a misdemeanor.
If she failed to follow the rules, Barto would be sentenced to an initial 15 months behind bars, with the remainder of the three-year sentence suspended and three years probation, and the other offenses would stand.
As Judge Evert Fowle imposed the sentence that represented the good outcome, he told Barto, “I think your progress in this court and how you’ve done is pretty extraordinary. I have abiding faith and confidence you will do very well.”
He told the dozen people in the courtroom, most of whom were enrolled in the specialty court program, “This is how you do it, all of you.”
Her attorney, Seth Levy, said that when Barto first came to his office in 2015, “Her life was really a mess. She was not seeing her kids, her housing was sketchy, she was really struggling. She had to change and she recognized that.”
He said she had “a real issue with addiction” which she has since conquered with counseling and treatment, and that she persevered with the assistance of the Co-Occurring Disorders Court team. “She sees her kids now on weekends and she’s working,” Levy said. “I’m glad to be a part of that.”
Barto thanked the team, the judge, and Levy for their work.
Assistant District Attorney David Spencer said that Barto entered the court with a significant record.
“Her life quite simply was going nowhere good for her,” he said.
He noted she initially stayed at a shelter.
“She got a job, then a better job, and it never stopped,” he said, adding, “Her aftercare plan is like a guidebook to how you do this.”
Part of the sentence included 100 hours of community service, which Barto already completed, and $20.86 restitution for the Hannaford theft. Fowle suspended the $400 fine.
Conditions of probation prohibit her from being at any Hannaford supermarket or property and from contact with several people. She is prohibited from having alcohol, illegal drugs and weapons. She is subject to random search.
Spencer noted that the “no contacts” are “all people from her former life.”
Betty Adams — 621-5631