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Shawn M. Small told the judge he'd been addicted to opioids since age 12.
AUBURN — A transient man who robbed a convenience store twice was sentenced Wednesday to three years in prison.
Shawn Small Submitted photo
Shawn M. Small, 25, pleaded guilty from Androscoggin County Jail by videoconference in Androscoggin County Superior Court to two counts of felony robbery, each charge punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
Justice Harold Stewart II listened to arguments by Small’s lawyer and the prosecutor before settling on a sentence of seven years in prison, of which he suspended four years.
Police said Small robbed the Circle K store at 21 Center St. on Aug. 31, 2021, and again nearly two months later.
A store clerk said the robber entered the store wearing a blue mask on Oct. 12 and brandished a handgun, demanding money from the cash register.
The robber fled across Center Street and up Whitney Street about 9 p.m., after the clerk handed over some cash.
A tracking dog followed a trail from the store to a building on Vernon Street, where police found Small hiding in an apartment injecting illegal drugs.
Police also found in the apartment a pellet gun and clothing, including pajama bottoms, police believed had been used in the robbery.
During questioning, Small admitted to the robbery, as well as a robbery at that store at the end of August, police said.
Small’s lawyer, John D. Clifford V, argued for a six-year sentence with all but two and a half years suspended, followed by two years of probation. Prosecutors said Small should be sentenced to eight years in prison, with all but three years suspended, plus three years of probation.
Stewart split the difference on the overall prison sentence, favoring the state on the time to serve and defense on probation.
Deputy District Attorney Andrew Matulis told the judge: “I would, of course, point out to the court that there is a huge community impact of these crimes, that there’s essentially the degrading of a community that is occurring, that normal citizens cannot feel safe, that individuals are coming into convenience stores and pointing guns and demanding money.”
Small had recently finished serving a sentence for a 2016 robbery conviction before committing the August robbery, Matulis noted.
Small told the judge he’d been addicted to drugs since he was 12 years old when he started using prescription opioids, washing them down with alcohol.
“At age 16, I graduated from popping pills to shooting up heroin,” he said. “Shortly after that, my life took a turn for the worse. I was stealing from and hurting the people that I loved the most.”
Small chronicled his downward spiral, which included robbing a pharmacy.
His addiction continued with crack cocaine and methamphetamine use to treat his attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, he said.
He was able to get into a drug addiction program and stayed sober for awhile, but started using drugs again, became homeless and was eating out of a restaurant dumpster, he said.
“Even at that point in my life it was still hard for me to admit and ask for help,” he said. That’s when he started robbing the local convenience store.
Once he’s back in prison, Small said he plans to enroll in a variety of programs that include drug treatment and mental health therapy.
“I like to be around the same type of people that have the same goal of staying clean and trying to get help with their addiction as I do,” he said.
“I certainly don’t have a silver bullet for the drug problem in this community, in this state, in the country,” Matulis said.
“It is an absolutely horrendous problem. And I’m certainly not sure exactly how we get it solved. But through the years, I have come to the conclusion that it is up to the individual to make the decision to change.
“It’s up to him to do the hard work to get better. He says he wants a normal life. We all want him to live a normal life. But the price to society is becoming too high” when someone commits not one, but three robberies in public places, Matulis said.
“It makes everyone in this community feel unsafe,” he said.
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