SKOWHEGAN — A former resident of the Trinity Men’s Shelter was sentenced this week to serve 30 days in jail for illegal possession of drugs — prescription medication that had been stolen from the shelter.

John Donovan, 45, who was living at the shelter up until the time of the theft, pleaded guilty to five of 10 drug possession charges against him. The other charges were dismissed as part of the plea agreement.

Phil Mohlar, Donovan’s court-appointed lawyer for the day of his appearance, which was Monday, said Donovan was not charged with theft, despite the fact that the drugs found in his possession had been stolen from the shelter.

“The drugs were found in his possession at another residence,” Mohlar said. “The circumstances of how they happened to have been taken from the shelter were in doubt — what was not in doubt was he was found with the drugs in his possession. They couldn’t show or prove how he had gotten them because he was at another person’s apartment.”

The prescription drugs police found in the apartment are being held as evidence and will not be given back to the shelter because it is unknown if they have been tampered with, Police Chief Ted Blais said Friday.

He was sentenced to 180 days in the Somerset County Jail, with all but the 30 days suspended. He also must pay $2,500 in fines and court surcharges and is to have no contact with the men’s homeless shelter on McClellan Street, according to court records. He also is ordered to serve one year of administrative release, which is like probation, but the offender does not have to report to a probation officer, and to undergo substance abuse counseling and random searches and testing for drugs.

The drugs, which belonged to about 75 people staying at the shelter, were valued at more than $1,000 and included stimulants, painkillers, anti-depressants, asthma medication, narcotics and those used to treat other mental and behavioral health issues, according to Skowhegan police. The drugs were in a locked cabinet that was removed from the shelter and opened nearby. The empty locker was later found.

John Martins, spokesman for the Department of Health and Human Services, said that because of the unique situation, the department will try to work with shelter officials and Skowhegan police on a way to help the MaineCare patients who lost their medication get their prescriptions refilled. Normally, prescriptions for drugs that are stolen from those with MaineCare — Maine’s state version of Medicaid — can’t be refilled.

The Rev. Richard Berry, pastor of the Trinity Evangelical Free Church, which operates the shelter, said Wednesday that many of the people whose medications were stolen are on MaineCare and he was concerned it would be difficult to get them back.

“We’re working on it,” Berry said by phone Friday. “DHHS will try to help, we’ve contacted them and we’re waiting for an answer from them. Some people have donated some money and some were able to get their prescriptions, so it’s still in process.”

Donovan was arrested July 9 at an apartment on Main Street. Police said another resident of the building reported him following a disagreement.

Police officers arrived at the apartment and found Donovan hiding under a large duffel bag and a pile of clothing on a bed. Police also found a cardboard box “full of medications from residents of the Trinity shelter,” according to a police affidavit filed in court.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

Twitter: @Doug_Harlow


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