Portland man reaches deal in statewide break-in cases

By Keith Edwards of the Kennebec Journal | Apr 23, 2019
Photo by: Kennebec Journal photo by Joe Phelan Charles York, left, and his defense attorney, Robert Andrews, take part in a hearing April 16 at the Capital Judicial Center in Augusta.

Augusta — A Portland man accused of breaking into numerous businesses across the state -- including several in the Midcoast -- was sentenced to 40 months in jail for a single charge of violating a condition of release.

Police estimated the value of the items taken in the series of burglaries, combined with the damage done to the properties, totaled more than $200,000.

Charles R. York, 41, was one of three suspects in dozens of burglaries, most occurring at night at businesses in Cumberland, Kennebec, Lincoln and Knox counties. He faced dozens of burglary and related charges in a jury trial scheduled to start Tuesday morning, April 16, at the Capital Judicial Center.

Instead, a plea deal was reached before jurors entered the courtroom, in which York pleaded guilty to a single charge of violating a condition of release, for calling a woman who was to be a witness in the case — whom he was prohibited from contacting — on the phone from jail.

The charge is a class C felony, as were the burglary charges the state dropped as part of the plea deal.

He was sentenced Tuesday to 40 months in jail, time he’d already served while awaiting trial, so he was expected to be released that day.

Kennebec County District Attorney Maeghan Maloney said the decision to make the offer of the plea deal was made after she heard from the Cumberland County District Attorney’s Office, which led the prosecution of the case, that they didn’t think they could prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt in court.

“I’m definitely disappointed, but when I hear a case can’t be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, when a prosecutor tells me that, I have to acknowledge we can’t go forward,” Maloney said later Tuesday.

In court, Carlos Diaz, an assistant district attorney in Cumberland County assigned to the case, told Justice Michaela Murphy the plea agreement was reached after years of litigation, in large part because of challenges the state saw in the case approaching the trial, in which some 39 witnesses were expected to be called to testify over nine days.

He said the passage of so much time since the crimes occurred made it difficult for some witnesses to remember the events.

“The reality is, we feel this is a fair and reasonable agreement that reflects the challenges the state would face in bringing this case to trial,” Diaz said.

Murphy said she knew it had been an “incredibly complicated case” involving multiple prosecutorial agencies and the three defendants and said considering all the factors, the result was reasonable.

York’s attorney, Robert Andrews, said the agreement was a good resolution to the case.

York was one of three men arrested in October 2015 and charged with numerous burglaries, most at businesses, and indicted in December 2015.

Taylor Shultz, 38, of Limerick, pleaded guilty June 22, 2018, in Cumberland County Superior Court in Portland to three counts of burglary in connection with some of the crimes. His sentencing was awaiting the conclusion of the cases involving co-defendants York and Michael J. Warner II, 40, of Portland.

Warner’s case is under appeal before the Maine Supreme Judicial Court. The Cumberland County District Attorney’s Office is appealing a judge’s ruling that the affidavit filed in court to secure a search warrant for Warner’s cellphone records did not provide adequate probable cause.

The local charges were connected to burglaries at J.C. Penney, Townline Video Plus in Warren on Aug. 24, 2015, in which more than $10,000 in goods was reportedly taken; Flagship Cinema in Thomaston on Aug. 31, 2015, in which more than $1,000 was taken; and Lincoln's Country Store in Warren on May 24, 2015, where more than $1,000 was stolen.

York was not ordered to pay any restitution as part of his sentence.

Maloney said the court found York had no ability to pay restitution. However, she said, she will still pursue restitution in the remaining case, which is Warner’s.

Maloney said the Cumberland County District Attorney’s Office took the lead role in the prosecution in part because a prosecutor there, who has since left the office, had expressed interest in taking on the case. She said most of the burglaries occurred in Cumberland County.

The men were arrested after investigators from the Kennebec County Sheriff’s Office responded to a July 30, 2015, report of a burglary and theft at Tobey’s Grocery in China and an investigation into that eventually led them to charge the three men.

Comments (1)
Posted by: John Clark Boeckeler | Apr 23, 2019 08:25

  1. Sweetheart deal.  The key to sucess for a burglar in Maine is to hit a lot of places in different counties, do a lot of damage, steal a lot of stuff so the total value and damage is very high, get the cases consolidated for trial in a county where the lead prosecutor says she's interested, and then string the matter out until it's assigned to a new prosecutor who doesn't want to try the burglary cases because there are a lot of witnesses, it's complicated, and will take a long time to try, and there might be some reasonable doubt.  Then the prosecutor might dump all the felony burglary charges and sugar it down to a single charge of violating a condition of release and agree that you don't even have to pay restitution to your victims.  Just make sure you commit your crimes in Maine and not in a state like Texas, where the prosecutors and judges might be a little tougher.  Sweetheart deal.  Well done defense counsel!



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