AUGUSTA — An Augusta man on Friday pleaded guilty to accepting copper wire stolen from a utility company to turn into a city metal recycling center.

John Paul Stevens, 50, pleaded guilty to receiving stolen property moments before his trial was set to begin at the Capital Area Judicial Center.

Stevens, who remains free on bail that includes a Maine Pretrial Services contract, faces up to five years in prison for the Class C offense. His sentence will likely be handed down in February.

Stevens in 2011 was convicted of theft by receiving stolen property and theft by unauthorized taking or transfer.

Stevens on Friday pleaded guilty to receiving copper wire that had been stolen from Central Maine Power in order to turn it in for money at Aim Recycling on Willow Street in Augusta.

Stevens’ jury trial was to begin Friday morning, but Justice Joseph Jabar kept the assembled jury outside the courtroom as he questioned Stevens about his decision to change his plea. Stevens, against the advice of his attorney, Elizabeth Gray, said he wished to plead guilty. Jabar explained Stevens’ rights and the ramifications of changing his plea from not guilty to guilty.

“Are you satisfied there is enough evidence to convict you beyond a reasonable doubt?” Jabar asked.

“Um,” Stevens said, hesitating for several moments. “Yes, your honor.”

Gray said she had “reservations” about Stevens decision but would not interfere with his wishes. She said the CMP supervisor prosecutors planned to call had a personal knowledge of the theft. Gray said it was reported to him. Gray said prosecutors would have a difficult time establishing the wire had been stolen from the company.

Jabar again pressed Stevens on his decision to plead guilty.

“In light of all that, it’s your desire to plead guilty here today?” Jabar asked.

“Yes, your honor,” Stevens said.

Kennebec County Deputy District Attorney Paul Cavanaugh said the wire was stolen in April 2015. The wire was specific for the job being carried out by a lineman and his crew, Cavanaugh said. The wire had all been pre-cut for specific jobs.

“It was very unique for those purposes,” he said. “It was not the stuff you buy at Home Depot.”

The wire was left on the work trucks over a three-day weekend. The wire was gone when the crew returned to work on Monday, Cavanaugh said.

The crew supervisor reported the theft to Central Maine Power officials.

Maine State Police Trooper Adam McNaughton learned the wire had been turned in at Aim Recycling. McNaughton went to CMP where he learned that someone had stolen some of the company’s wire, Cavanaugh said. Company officials went with McNaughton to the recycling center and confirmed the wire was theirs. Cavanaugh said Aim had properly collected data, including driver’s license information, on the person who turned in the wire who turned out to be Stevens, Cavanaugh said.

When McNaughton confronted Stevens some time later, he told the trooper that he had sold the wire but that he had done so for a friend.

The recycling company paid Stevens $190 for the wiring.

Craig Crosby — 621-5642

[email protected]

Twitter: @CraigCrosby4

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