AUGUSTA — A Randolph man on Friday pleaded guilty to robbery and was given a chance to rehabilitate himself through a specialty court program set up to aid offenders diagnosed with mental disorders and substance abuse problems.

Aaron P. Young, 31, admitted to robbing a woman walking across the bridge between Gardiner and Randolph on Sept. 24, knocking her to the ground, kicking her and stealing her purse. Police arrested Young shortly afterward as he hid in bushes not far from the bridge.

For Young, a former standout baseball player at the University of Maine, the stakes are particularly high.

If he succeeds in the Co-Occurring Disorders Court program, which can take up to two years, the felony charge would be amended to misdemeanor charges of assault and theft. Now, he faces up to 30 years in prison for the felony.

On Friday in Kennebec County Superior Court, Justice Nancy Mills told Young that his proposed sentence under the best-case scenario would be 364 days in jail, with all but six to nine months suspended, a $300 fine and a year of probation. A second 364-day sentence, all suspended, will follow and another year of probation.

If Young is unsuccessful, the felony conviction would remain and the sentence would be 15 years in prison, with all but six years suspended, and four years of probation. The defense attorney could argue for additional jail time to be suspended, Mill noted.

Young apologized to the victim, who was not in the courtroom. Assistant District Attorney Alisa Ross said the victim was aware of the proposed outcome and opted not to attend.

Shooting spree case

Just before his hearing, Young watched Mills sentence another man: William Casey Jones, 21, of Chelsea, who failed to complete the Co-Occurring Disorders Court program.

Jones had pleaded guilty a year ago to 16 charges stemming from a drive-by shooting spree in which he randomly fired more than a dozen bullets from a 22-caliber gun, hitting homes and vehicles in Augusta and Chelsea on March 9, 2010. His gunfire came within inches of striking several people.

Jones entered the CARA program, where the requirements for behavior are stringent and expectations and assistance high. He couldn’t make it.

Last month, he admitted to violating the terms of his probation by testing positive for synthetic marijuana on three occasions and for participating in a scheme to try to smuggle drugs into the jail.

On Friday, Mills sentenced him to four years in jail, with all but nine months suspended, and four years of probation. If he violates probation, he could go to prison for up to six years.

One of Jones’ victims, Christine Keller, who was driving her car when a bullet struck it and missed her by inches, asked the judge Friday for the longest sentence allowed under the law.

“To this day I still experience anxiety and involuntary tremors when I hear gunfire … and wonder will I ever feel comfortable again,” Keller said. She also filed a civil lawsuit against Jones, seeking compensation for her emotional distress.

Conditions of probation ban Jones from using alcohol and illegal drugs, and from contact with the victims. Mills also ordered him to pay $2,227 in restitution; he paid $894 toward restitution while in the court program.

Jones previously served 247 days in jail on the related misdemeanor charges.

Attorney Roger Katz said Jones’ substance abuse problems began when he started drinking and smoking marijuana at age 14, and he said Jones continued to self-medicate for an undiagnosed depression and anxiety disorder.

“When he got to college, it got worse,” Katz said. The shooting spree occurred while Jones was home from the University of Maine.

“Before this incident and after, there was never a history of violence,” Katz said. “He is not a violent person except this one event.”

Jones’ mother, Lisa Jones, told the judge that she grieves for the victims and for her son.

The prosecutor, Geoffrey Rushlau, district attorney in Knox, Lincoln, Sagadahoc and Waldo counties, sought consecutive sentences to lengthen Jones’ probation.

“It’s clear he needs as long as possible supervision when he is released to address problems of relapse,” Rushlau said.

Jones apologized to the judge and the victims.

“Up to this day, I don’t know what happened. I feel like a monster,” he said. “If I could go back, there’s many things I would change.”

Mills said she hoped Jones could remain at the Kennebec County jail and possibly participate in the Correctional Addiction Recovery Academy, which his designed to help people overcome opiate addiction.

The sentence “does not diminish gravity of your crimes,” Mills told Jones, “but gives you opportunity to get out fairly soon and an opportunity to be in a forward-looking program.”

Betty Adams — 621-5631

[email protected]

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.