AUGUSTA — When a Queens, New York, man goes on trial next month on charges of aggravated trafficking in cocaine base and heroin, the jurors will not hear the nickname the state says he used in Maine: “Esco,” or the one the state says he uses in his home state, “Ammo.”

A judge on Thursday said those nicknames could not be used at the trial of Kashawn McLaughlin, 26, of Queens, New York.

McLaughlin, who has been held in lieu of $50,000 bail since his arrest Nov. 2, 2015, was at the Capital Judicial Center for pretrial motions brought by his defense attorneys, Jonathan Handelman and James Mason, as well as the prosecutors, Assistant Attorneys General Katie Sibley and John Risler.

McLaughlin was one of seven people arrested on crack and heroin charges following an Augusta drug bust that law enforcement officials described as one of the most significant in recent years.

The arrests followed a search that same day at the Senator Inn & Spa on Western Avenue — where McLaughlin was found — and at apartment at 41 Gage St. At the time, police reported seizing 108 grams of crack cocaine, 66 grams of heroin and a half-pound of marijuana. At the time, Steve McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety, estimated the drugs had a street value of $25,000.

Police also seized two loaded handguns and nearly $14,000 in cash.


Augusta Police Deputy Chief Jared Mills said the bust was “one of the most significant” in the recent past.

Two of the seven arrested pleaded guilty to various charges and McLaughlin’s case is set for jury selection Oct. 6 and 7, with the trial scheduled to start Nov. 1, Justice Michaela Murphy said on Thursday.

McLaughlin had pleaded not guilty to an indictment charging him with one count of aggravated trafficking in cocaine base in a quantity of 112 grams or more, aggravated trafficking in heroin of six grams or more, possession of a firearm by a prohibited person, as well as criminal forfeiture of $12,188 and two firearms, a Sig Sauer 9mm and a Cobra .380.

Prior to the hearing on the various pretrial motions Thursday, Handelman sought a reduction in bail for McLaughlin, suggesting that it could be lowered to $10,000 cash with conditions that would require McLaughlin to live with a cousin in Maine.

Handelman also said that getting out on bail would allow McLaughlin to resolve his issues about being on parole in New York.

Sibley argued that the bail should remain at $50,000 cash because of McLaughlin’s lack of ties to Maine, the large amount of drugs involved and having two loaded firearms in his hotel room. The prosecutor also said that McLaughlin is facing a four-year mandatory minimum sentence and maximum of 30 years if convicted.


Murphy refused to lower bail.

The state asked to be able to introduce testimony telling McLaughlin’s jurors that he was involved in an earlier sale of cocaine base, which would support the prosecution’s contention that he intended to sell the drugs found in the hotel room Nov. 2, 2015.

Murphy rejected that as well, saying, “I am excluding that evidence in this trial particularly since the state has brought a separate charge.”

McLaughlin was indicted in October 2015 on a separate charge of unlawful trafficking in cocaine base that allegedly occurred April 14, 2015, in Augusta. That charge is not part of the current case.

Murphy also ruled that attorneys could not raise any issue of gang affiliations at the trial.

The judge deferred rulings on several issues, including one where a co-defendant allegedly told investigators that McLaughlin said he was always armed because he did not want to get shot again.


Sibley said McLaughlin was shot in Augusta in February 2015. Augusta police reported that a man was shot in the arm on Feb. 2, 2015, on Mount Vernon Avenue following a scuffle that police believe was drug-related. The victim was not identified at the time, but two other men were arrested on warrants during the investigation.

Sibley also told the judge that one gun was found between the two beds in the hotel room and one on the desk with 100 grams of cocaine.

Mason argued to keep the statement out, saying, “The state is trying to use that statement to prove the gun possession charge.”

Murphy also deferred rulings on admitting into the trial allegations that McLaughlin threatened some co-defendants in person or in writing and at one point wrote, “I don’t sell drugs; I have people do it for me.”

Two co-defendants arrested in the same raid with McLaughlin have pleaded guilty to drug trafficking charges.

Donna Lynnette Hall, 46, of Augusta, also known as Donna Williams, pleaded guilty in August 2016 to the two charges of unlawful trafficking and one count of violating condition of release, and did not contest the forfeiture of $12,188 in cash and two firearms seized and was sentenced to 30 months in prison.


In June 2016, Tymell R. Waters, 31, of Manhattan, pleaded guilty at the Capital Judicial Center to unlawful trafficking in cocaine base. A second charge, aggravated trafficking in heroin, was dismissed in exchange for that plea. He was sentenced to 23 months in prison.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

[email protected]

Twitter: @betadams

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