AUGUSTA — A judge on Tuesday sentenced a convicted drug trafficker from Queens, New York, to an initial 12 years in prison for selling cocaine base and heroin in Augusta.

Kashawn McLaughlin, 27, was convicted by a jury in November 2016 of aggravated trafficking in cocaine base and unlawful trafficking in heroin that occurred around Nov. 2, 2015, in Augusta. The sentencing hearing was held at the Capital Judicial Center, where the trial also had been held.

The full sentence was 20 years in prison, with all but the first 12 years suspended, followed by four years of probation.

The aggravated trafficking conviction — which was based on the quantity of the drugs found — carries a four-year minimum imprisonment.

The prosecutor, Assistant Attorney General Katie Sibley, asked that Justice Michaela Murphy put McLaughlin behind bars for 20 years, saying, he was “a for-profit, armed drug trafficker.” Sibley added, “He was the only one putting drugs in the hands of customers.” She said the other people arrested at the same time were prosecuted under the theory of accomplice liability.

She said this was one of the most serious drug trafficking cases that had occurred in Kennebec County and compared McLaughlin’s offenses to those of Franklin Arbour Jr., of Augusta, who is serving the 18-year unsuspended portion of his 25-year sentence for multiple drug convictions.

The defense suggested a 15-year sentence for McLaughlin, with an initial seven years behind bars and the remainder suspended while he is on probation.

McLaughlin has been held in jail since his arrest Nov. 2, 2015.

On Tuesday, McLaughlin was represented by attorneys Nicholas Worden and Patrick Nickerson.

Worden told the judge Tuesday that attorneys advised McLaughlin to allow them to speak for him during the sentencing hearing since appeals of the conviction and sentence are anticipated.

“He’s here to accept responsibility for his actions that the jury found,” he said.

Worden pointed to a report prepared for the defense that indicated McLaughlin “struggles with addiction” and was a victim of abuse. Worden said McLaughlin had a General Educational Development certificate and had worked previously as a teacher’s aide.

“He’s a gifted writer and a gifted communicator” with a lot to offer society, Worden said, advocating for some of the sentence to be suspended while McLaughlin is on probation. He also said it was difficult to compare McLaughlin — who has an attempted burglary conviction in New York — to Arbour, who has prior drug convictions.

“With this lack of prior history, to call (McLaughlin) a demon or a monster, which the state has done here, is not fair,” Worden said.

He also noted that McLaughlin’s mother was in the courtroom Tuesday to show her son support, and he said McLaughlin also has a daughter in New York.

His mother, who sat with two other people in the courtroom, did not address the judge formally; however, she objected aloud to some of the prosecutor’s statements and at one point left the courtroom abruptly. She later returned.

McLauglin’s trial attorneys were Jonathan Handelman and James Mason. McLaughlin did not testify at his three-day trial. However, his former girlfriend of 12 years, Porchia Woodard, testified that she watched him sell drugs to Donna Lynnette Hall, then 46, of Augusta, on Nov. 2, 2015, in Room 175 at the Senator Inn & Spa in Augusta.

At the sentencing hearing, Sibley displayed on courtroom monitors a series of color photographs taken by agents that day.

One showed a table with liquor bottles, a bag of Doritos and a plastic bag containing a white powder, which Siblely said was 105 to 106 grams of cocaine. A bedside table had another plastic bag, which Sibley said had 62 grams of heroin, surrounded by currency.

Another photo showed a large amount of bills, which Sibley said was $10,000 to $12,000, as well as a receipt for transfer of money.

Sibley also showed a photo with a paper containing a list of names of defense attorneys and firms — Walter McKee, Lisa Whittier, Sherry Tash and Lipman & Katz. However, the judge said she would not consider that with regard to sentencing because Sibley could not say who had written the list.

Both Sibley and Maine Drug Enforcement Agency Officer Brian Wastella — who testified Tuesday as well as at the trial — said there were no indications that drugs were being used in the hotel room.

McLaughlin, Woodard and Hall were among six people arrested that day by Maine Drug Enforcement Agency officers who had the room under surveillance for several hours before executing a search warrant there.

Officers reported seizing 100 grams of cocaine base, with more separately packaged, plus 60 grams of heroin.

Later charges against Woodard and another woman, Davina Butler, were dismissed by the state.

In closing arguments at the trial, Sibley said McLaughlin was “engaged in a commercial enterprise,” selling drugs in central Maine. She said he bragged about it in an unsigned letter intended for Woodard, who was held at the same jail, saying when he got out he would return to central Maine to sell more drugs and triple his money.

Handelman, in his closing argument, said the officers could not see into the hotel room so they could not say that McLaughlin was selling the drugs.

Murphy said Tuesday she rejected a motion for a new trial.

She also found that the state was entitled to $12,188 in cash seized from the hotel room and alleged to be proceeds of the drug sales as well a two firearms seized from McLaughlin.

McLaughlin pleaded no contest to the criminal forfeiture charges, and also pleaded guilty to violation of conditions of release for having contact with a co-defendant, Tymell Waters, on Nov. 2, 2016. On Tuesday, Sibley said a transport officer witnessed McLaughlin communicating with Waters through a series of gestures as Waters was waiting to be brought to the courthouse to testify at McLaughlin’s trial.

Murphy said McLaughlin’s record does not compare to that of Arbour, but she had concerns about McLaughlin’s threats to both Butler and Woodard, some of which were introduced as testimony at the jury trial.

Murphy said a period of probation was important because McLaughlin would be released to the community “as a relatively young man” and would need state supervision.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

[email protected]

Twitter: @betadams

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