AUGUSTA — A 53-year-old Portland man pleaded guilty Tuesday to a charge of unlawful possession of heroin stemming from a traffic stop in Augusta on June 1.

Preston M. Cooper waived indictment and pleaded guilty to that charge at the Capital Judicial Center in exchange for the dismissal of other charges stemming from the same stop, including an aggravated drug trafficking offense.

“He’s doing this of his own free will,” his attorney, Lisa Whitter, told Justice Bruce Mallonee. Cooper interrupted the proceedings several times to ask Whittier questions about the plea and once asked the judge a question. Whittier said some of Cooper’s concerns revolved around a motion to suppress Whittier had filed over the traffic stop.

Cooper was sentenced to 18 months in prison, and fined $400, which the judge suspended after Whittier said Cooper would be behind bars for 18 months and had no ability to pay as well as outstanding fines in other courts.

“This is a case where there was no evidence of any (monetary) gain on the part of Mr. Cooper,” Whitter said.

The prosecutor, Assistant District Attorney Tyler LeClair, outlined the state’s evidence, saying that Augusta police had received a tip about 1:30 a.m. that day that someone driving a white vehicle with illegal narcotics inside would be going to a location on Winter Street in Augusta.

LeClair said that when a white car arrived there, the driver saw police and abruptly pulled into a parking lot.

The driver was identified as Cooper, and he was placed under arrest on a charge of operating after suspension. LeClair said police located a bag of heroin on Cooper and some cocaine on him once he arrived at the Kennebec County jail.

In support of the sentence, LeClair said Cooper has a 2003 drug trafficking conviction in Augusta, and has served prison terms for assault, domestic violence assault and other offenses including eluding an officer. LeClair also said the total weight of heroin was about 30 grams.

Whittier told the judge that Cooper is an Army veteran and has family support, in particular a sister who had come to court for him on Tuesday.

“He has people that love and care about him,” Whittier said when she asked the judge to accept the proposed sentence. “Mr. Cooper has also held jobs in the past. He’s taking responsibility for what he’s doing.”

The judge told Cooper that he would accept the recommendation.

“I don’t want to send you to prison,” Mallonee said. “I get no joy out of that whatsoever. What I’d like is for you to get your life in order. I hope that being clean for a while will help you.”

Betty Adams — 621-5631

[email protected]

Twitter: @betadams

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