An Episcopal priest accused of mailing prescription drugs to inmates at a Wiscasset jail made his first court appearance in that town Thursday morning and did not enter a plea.

The Rev. Stephen Foote, 70, of Bremen, who has been placed on leave as a transition priest at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Augusta, faces one felony charge of trafficking in prison contraband at Two Bridges Regional Jail in Wiscasset. He didn’t have to enter a plea in the pre-indictment hearing at Lincoln County Superior Court this morning, but a grand jury is expected to take up the case in January.

At Thursday morning’s hearing bail conditions were slightly modified, including the striking of a condition that prohibited use and possession of alcohol.

William Avantaggio, Foote’s attorney, said Superior Court Justice Jeffrey Hjelm also signed an order allowing the attorney access to otherwise confidential Department of Corrections records pertaining to the case.

Foote’s next scheduled court date is an arraignment on Jan. 31, 2013, assuming the grand jury indicts him, according to Avantaggio.

James Pease, supervisor of the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency office covering Waldo, Knox, Lincoln and Sagadahoc counties, has said Foote mailed suboxone strips to Joshua Theriault-Patten, 25, of Bremen, an inmate who he had a friendship with. Suboxone is typically used to treat opiate addiction but can be abused. 

Theriault-Patten and another inmate, Adam Shawley, 27, of Newport, are charged with one count each of Class D attempted trafficking in prison contraband. The two have histories of drug-related offenses, according to published reports.

The charges are related to one incident, but authorities have said they suspect the inmates had been receiving drugs before that. Pease has said they were abusing the drugs and could have been selling them. A press release announcing the arrest said the jail, the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office and the MDEA investigated the three men for a month prior to the charges.

Pease has said that by the time the grand jury convenes, there will be more charges in the case. He didn’t say whether those charges will be against Foote, the inmates, or those who provided Foote with the drugs.

Foote was arrested Nov. 1 and released on bail. The Episcopal Diocese of Maine announced that he was placed on administrative leave after they learned of the charges. He was serving as a transition priest at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Augusta at the time of his arrest.

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 transition priest at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Waterville.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated Foote’s former position with the state diocese. The mistake is corrected above.

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