AUGUSTA — A former city man was sentenced Wednesday to an initial four years in prison for aggravated trafficking in heroin, which occurred Dec. 16, 2015, in Augusta.

The remainder of the eight-year term for Michael L. Journet II, 38, now of South Portland, was suspended while he spends four years on probation.

However, Journet remains free on bail pending an appeal of a ruling in a suppression motion. Journet, who is African-American, claims he was a victim of racial profiling when his vehicle was stopped that day on Winthrop Court in Augusta.

Journet had entered a guilty plea Sept. 28, making it conditional on the outcome of his appeal.

At that time, attorneys agreed to a sentence cap of 10 years, with up to five years to be served initially and the remainder suspended, and a maximum of four years of probation.

On Wednesday at the Capital Judicial Center, Journet’s defense attorney, Leonard Sharon, argued that the time to be served, in particular, should be significantly less.

He suggested a final sentence of four years in prison with 15 months to be served up front, and the remainder suspended.

Journet told the judge, “I realize there is no explanation,” referring to his own behavior.

But he said that in the 22 months he’s been free on bail, “I’ve worked on myself spiritually and with my family. I’ve educated myself a little more now that I’m a business owner now.” He added that he also has become more aware of the effect of drugs on the community.

“I’ve done everything I could to show I’ve changed,” he said.

The prosecutor, Assistant District Attorney Tyler LeClair, recommended the sentence be set at the maximum available under the cap.

He told Judge Valerie Stanfill on Wednesday that Journet “was in possession of 9.94 grams of a substance that contained heroin. He possessed that with the intent to sell to another individual.”

LeClair also cited Journet’s 2008 conviction in Kennebec County for unlawful trafficking in heroin, for which he was sentenced to serve an initial 18 months of a five-year prison term.

LeClair said the sentence for this aggravated charge needed to be longer. He also said he did not believe Journet’s explanation that he had agreed to sell heroin to a person he had just met at a bar because he needed money for Christmas.

LeClair talked of the opioid epidemic killing an average of one Mainer a day. “The epidemic is not getting any better,” he said, adding, “A lighter sentence in this case is only going to encourage more people to take part in this activity.”

Sharon told Stanfill that Journet made a bad choice but readily admitted to police the first night that the drugs were his and not his passenger’s.

“He did plead guilty when the time came,” Sharon said. “He did cooperate that evening.”

At the earlier hearing, LeClair outlined for the judge the evidence the state would have provided at trial, saying Journet’s blue BMW sport utility vehicle was stopped Dec. 16, 2015, on Winthrop Court in Augusta. LeClair said a confidential informant had told police that a drug dealer driving that type of vehicle would be bringing heroin to sell.

LeClair also said that Journet’s passenger, Danielle Bunikis, now 25, of Brunswick, began “screaming and pulling out her ponytail,” yelling that she had made a mistake and “her life was over.”

At the jail, she pulled a package from her underwear that contained a packet of heroin.

In several memoranda filed with the court, Sharon noted that Journet maintains the arrest and seizure violated his constitutional rights. He also argues that “racial profiling allowed a relaxed standard in making the stop and immediate arrest.”

Sharon also wrote about some of Journet’s background, saying he was raised in Bronx, New York, by a single mother who was an addict. Sharon said Journet’s work at a bank came to a halt after he was hit in the leg by a random shot and rehabilitation was lengthy.

Journet moved to Maine in 2010 and now owns a sandwich shop in Lewiston, Sharon wrote.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

[email protected]

Twitter: @betadams

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