Dec. 7-FARMINGTON - An Avon woman pleaded not guilty Tuesday to a federal two-count indictment on charges of using and maintaining drug premises and possession with intent to distribute fentanyl and crack cocaine; aiding and abetting.
Brandice "Brandi" Dotolo, 40, entered the pleas via Zoom from Somerset County Jail in Madison to the U.S. District Court in Bangor.
Dotolo appeared by video conference in August in front of Magistrate Judge John Nivison from her home in Avon. She was given release conditions, which were updated later with conditions regarding testing for illegal substances.
According to discussion between attorneys, probation officer and Nivison on Tuesday during the arraignment and a motion to revoke bail to keep her detained, she did not comply with those conditions. She didn't keep in touch with the federal probation officer consistently and did not have testing done among other violations.
According to a federal indictment, Dotolo "did unlawfully and knowingly open, lease, rent, use and maintain a place at 887 River Road (in Avon) for the purpose of distributing and using cocaine base (also known as crack cocaine) and heroin, both controlled substances," in violation of federal law.
The second count of possession to distribute fentanyl and cocaine base - also known as crack cocaine, on July 17, 2020, alleges she knowingly and intentionally possessed with the intent to distribute a mixture and substance containing fentanyl and a mixture and substance containing a detectable amount of crack cocaine in violation of the U.S. Code and did aid and abet such conduct, according to the indictment.
If convicted, Dotolo faces up to 20 years in prison and a maximum $500,000 fine for maintaining and using a drug premises and a maximum of 20 years in prison and up to a $1 million fine.
The Franklin County Sheriff's Office also charged Dotolo by summons on Dec. 1 with a charge of trafficking in scheduled drugs.
Deputy Detective David Davol conducted a recent investigation, which resulted in the issuance of a search warrant on Dec. 1 for 887 River Road in Avon. Former Sheriff's Deputy Detective Stephen Charles conducted the investigation at the same residence in 2020. The state dismissed the latter charges because of the federal investigation.
Evidence of drug trafficking was found on Dec. 1, Lieutenant Detective David St. Laurent of the Franklin County Sheriff's Office told the Sun Journal on Tuesday by phone after the arraignment.
Deputies, agents of the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency and officers from the FBI Safestreets Task Force executed a search warrant Dec. 1.
Dotolo was arrested on a federal warrant on the two-count indictment that day and taken into custody.
During a motion to revoke bail, which Dotolo waived a hearing on Tuesday, she admitted to violating conditions of release. Nicholas Heimbach, assistant U.S. attorney, requested that bail be revoked and the defendant be detained until the matter is concluded.
"I have a lot of health problems," Dotolo told the court. She was in the hospital for a few weeks with bilateral pneumonia and has a heart condition an infection in her heart.
Nivison set the case for the February 2023 trial list.
Matthew Erickson, Dotolo's attorney, told the court there is clear and concise evidence that she did not follow all bail conditions. But no evidence that she committed a new crime, he said.
Heimbach said there are no conditions that Dotolo will follow that the government can safely supervise Dotolo, because she didn't comply with the original release conditions. She has potential mental health and substance abuse issues, he said. She was also told not to reside at that the Avon residence previously and instead was to reside with her mother in Phillips.
That is where her four children live.
Erickson said that Dotolo has been working for 10 years cleaning camps in Jackman. She had difficulty with communications, cellphone service and texting due to the geographic location. She also has suffered from a broken vertebrae in her back in a car crash this past spring, he said. Her license was taken away from her due to health reasons. She just received it back.
Dotolo has agreed to close down her business and she will focus on her probation and health issues, he said.
Dotolo was crying and speaking out while Nivison was talking. He told her to stop three times and her attorney told her to stop once.
Nivison said that Dotolo has mental health and substance abuse issues. He agreed to release her from custody after everything is set up in about four to five days with strict conditions that include a GPS locater monitoring piece, and substance abuse and mental health treatment.
She is also prohibited from living at the Avon residence and cannot have contact with Brandon Wheeler, the father of her children. That condition brought more tears.
"Do you understand I am prepared to release you" with conditions? Nivison asked her.
"I would suggest you listen and comply with the conditions," he said.
The government is not unreasonable in requesting her to remain in custody, he said.
"I think a lot of it is related to mental health and substance use," Nivison said. "If you keep pushing back on things you might convince me to go the other way."