Cpl. Chris Rogers of the Maine State Police examines the clothing and shoes of Lenwood Williams on June 29, 2018, after Williams was arrested on the Maine Turnpike following a high-speed chase.

AUGUSTA — A Maryland man facing eight charges resulting from a police chase on the Maine Turnpike in June 2018 — after which heroin and a loaded handgun were found inside the vehicle — had six of those charges dismissed Wednesday and was sentenced to 14 days in jail.

Lenwood Williams

The judge, state prosecutor and defense lawyer agreed Lenwood Williams, 29, who had no prior criminal record, was having some sort of mental health breakdown during the incident.

Williams’ lawyer, Timothy Zerillo, said Williams’ brother, who was a father figure to him, died in 2016, and his mother died in 2018, creating a downward spiral for him.

Zerillo said Williams became addicted to opiates when prescribed them after he injured his knee playing football, according to reports. And when he could no longer afford opiates, Williams switched to heroin.

His mental health would eventually deteriorate to the point he believed there was a federal government conspiracy to kill him, according to Zerillo.

Zerillo said Williams was in Maine because he was trying to get out of the country due to his fear of the government. Zerillo said Williams first tried to get a flight from the Portland International Jetport to Mexico, but airline workers refused to let him board the plane because he did not appear stable.

A woman — along with her 5-year-old child — who was in the vehicle Williams was driving June 29, 2018, said he was trying to get to Canada.

Police pursued the vehicle after Williams drove through the West Gardiner toll plaza on the Maine Turnpike, headed north, at more than 80 mph. Williams was driving erratically and traveling in the breakdown lane before stopping his vehicle in Hallowell, according to court documents.

Police said they found more than 16 grams of heroin and a loaded handgun inside the SUV.

Both Williams and the woman with him, Heather L. Buccheri, 31, also of Maryland, were charged with two counts each of aggravated trafficking in heroin and unlawful possession of heroin. Williams was also charged with eluding an officer and driving to endanger.

Zerillo said Williams admitted the drugs were his, but said they were his personal stash and that he was not dealing drugs.

Buccheri had all the charges against her dismissed by the courts in November 2018.

Williams had all but two of the charges against him dismissed, and he pleaded guilty Wednesday to charges of eluding an officer and unlawful possession of heroin.

He was sentenced to five years in prison, the maximum sentence, but with all but 14 days suspended. Williams had already served those 14 days, so the sentence means Williams, if he complies with the terms of his two-year probation, would not serve additional time behind bars.

“It seems undisputed Mr. Williams was perhaps not in a full-blown psychotic state, but something close to that,” Justice Michaela Murphy said. “The court is not going to impose a further period of incarceration. The court also finds Mr. Williams is remorseful for what happened. Hopefully, this will give him the tools to figure out how to stay healthy and stay out of trouble.”

Williams, the father of two children, apologized during Wednesday’s court session.

“I’d like to apologize to you and the state of Maine for breaking the law,” he said, noting when his brother and mother died he “lost his life.”

“I’m tired. I want my life back, the way it used to be,” Williams said. “Whatever the court decides, as long as it is going to help and put things back on the right track for me, that’s where I want to go.”

His aunt, Lisa Fassett, who traveled from Maryland to speak on her nephew’s behalf, said he has been through a lot in his life and his late mother was his best friend. Fassett said Williams is a good person who, when traveling to Maine, gave a broke stranger his last $10 to buy gas. She said Williams needs intensive inpatient treatment for his opioid addiction and mental health issues.

“One thing I can say I’m grateful about: Being in court today, I’m glad my nephew is not one of the 1,574 opioid deaths experienced in Maryland in 2019,” Fassett said. “Lenwood said he wants to get into a treatment program. And that’s what we want, so he can go back to being the citizen he was in Maryland, and he can be in his two children’s lives.”

Assistant Attorney General Katie Sibley said the state agreed Williams “was clearly in the throes of a mental health crisis” when the incident occurred, had no criminal history and had taken responsibility for his actions.

Sibley said the state agreed with the five-year maximum sentence and two years of probation, but sought to have Williams serve seven months in jail to reinforce the seriousness of his offenses, which, she noted, included driving 80 mph while trying to flee from police and driving through a toll booth with a 5-year-old inside the vehicle.

Zerillo argued successfully the 14 days Williams had already spent in jail were satisfactory, noting state prosecutors agreed to suppress statements Williams made to police after his arrest because he was not in a healthy state of mind when he made the statements.

Zerillo said footage from a police camera showed Williams was pleading for help during his arrest.

“Help is not locking him up,” Zerillo said.

Conditions of Williams’ two years of probation include he not possess weapons or illegal drugs, have no contact with Buccheri, have his mental health evaluated and take part in counseling.

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