BANGOR — A 22-year-old Gardiner man pleaded not guilty in a subdued voice Wednesday at his arraignment on federal pharmacy robbery charges.

Rudger S. Ellis is accused of robbing a Rite Aid on Feb. 7 in Augusta and another Rite Aid on Feb. 18 in Gardiner.

U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge John Nivison warned Ellis that each charge carries a potential maximum imprisonment of 20 years. Nivison also appointed attorney Donald Brown to represent Ellis on the charges.

The prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Attorney F. Todd Lowell, said Ellis was being held in state custody on the charges and sought to hold him in federal detention if those charges are dismissed later this week, as anticipated.

Lowell said he had been in contact with the state prosecutor in the case about it.

Federal authorities prosecute most of the area pharmacy robberies.

“We don’t object to federal detention,” Brown said. “We’re hoping to get him into federal custody sooner rather than later.”

Nivison put the case on the July trial list.

Ellis, wearing a bright orange two-piece uniform that marked him as an inmate at Kennebec County jail, told the judge he was prepared to enter a plea Wednesday. After his attorney requested a brief consult, Ellis pleaded not guilty.

In connection with the Gardiner holdup, an affidavit by Gardiner police Detective Michael Durham says Ellis told the pharmacist that he wanted all the 30 mg oxycodone pills available at the pharmacy. He was given the pills and fled from the store.

“The suspect did not threaten use of a weapon, nor did he display a weapon or use any force during the commission of the crime,” Durham said. “The employees at the pharmacy were scared and clearly felt threatened by the conduct of the suspect.”

A witness told police that a green Pontiac Sunfire was parked on Spring Street with a man behind the wheel and a man in the front passenger’s seat, who got out and walked toward Rite Aid.

That same man later came running back to the car, which then drove away west on Spring Street, Durham wrote.

Police responding to the robbery passed the Pontiac but did not stop it because they didn’t know it allegedly had been used in the robbery, Durham wrote.

Augusta detectives Sgt. Jason Cote and Eric Dos Santos, who were investigating the Feb. 7 North Belfast Avenue Rite Aid robbery, looked at the surveillance video of the Gardiner robbery at Durham’s request and said the Augusta robber demonstrated the same behavior that the Gardiner robber did. The man in the Augusta holdup, however, told employees he had a firearm.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

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Twitter: @betadams