|Maine DEA informant Percy Cote goes on trial|
Cote’s trial started with
testimony from Joseph Harrington, an undercover DEA agent who was helping Maine State Police DEA agent David Lyons set up drug stings in Aroostook County
and Penobscot County. He said he lived at 12 Grassy Hill Rd., Old Town, Connecticut. 1
(I am unable to find Old Town, Connecticut and I don't believe the
man's name is Joseph Harrington.) He was never a police officer in the
State of Maine or anywhere else. He worked for the DEA in New York for
nine months before coming to Maine. At the time of the February 17–18,
1981 DEA drug sting and Mike’s murder he was working as a special
investigator for the State of Maine.
Harrington testified that he and David Lyons, special agent in charge, were a team making drug cases throughout the state, primarily in the Aroostook County area. The day he testified for the state, June 12, 1981, he was working in the construction field.
Harrington said they talked to Mr. Cote about "our wants to purchase large quantities of drugs. At this point Mr. Cote told myself and Agent Lyons that he could get us 10 pounds of marijuana along with one ounce of rock cocaine. He subsequently made a telephone call to an individual identified as Percy Sargent.”
They talked briefly and while “Percy, the other subject on the phone, was still on the phone, 2 Mr. Cote stated to myself that rock cocaine would be $3,000 for one ounce and the marijuana would be approximately $450 a pound.”
Cote's attorney, Charles E. Gilbert III, objected to the mention of the one-ounce of rock cocaine because the agents only got the 10 pounds of marijuana.
Mr. Harrington said that he and David Lyons went with Percy Cote to pick up some marijuana for the February 17, 1981 ride down to Bangor. He said when they arrived in Bangor they went to the Ramada Inn to meet with other agents to pick up the $10,000 buy-money to be used in the sting. Cote called Sargent and was told that there would be a one-hour wait before Sargent could meet up with them. “We returned to the Ramada Inn and went to the lounge.” After waiting an hour, they drove to Dunkin Donuts in Bangor. Soon afterward Percy Sargent arrived in a red Pinto. 3
Harrington’s testimony was that he, Agent Lyons, and Cote “followed Mr. Sargent in the red Pinto” to McDonalds in Brewer and Percy left the red Pinto in the McDonald’s parking lot. “Mr. Sargent exited his vehicle and got into the back seat of our vehicle.” He instructed them to proceed to the Bar Harbor Road to David Dupray’s apartment, arriving there at approximately 11:40 p.m. on the 17th of February.
There were back-up units consisting of Bangor police officers as well as the Maine State Police DEA units following the undercover vehicle to alert the officers to come help with the arrest. Harrington wore a body wire and the code was, “Peter is going to like this stuff.”
Harrington said when they arrived at Dupray’s apartment, Percy went inside and “returned holding a clear plastic one-pound bag of marijuana” and said, “there were nine more in the apartment”. After it was inspected and found to be good quantity and quality, Percy returned to the apartment and came back with a green plastic garbage bag filled with the other nine one-pound bags of marijuana and it was placed in the back seat of the undercover vehicle.
Percy was then asked if he would like to be paid and he replied that he “definitely would”. 4
Cote’s sentencing hearing was held in on July 9, 1981. Assistant District Attorney J. Hilary
Billings (Richard Sargent's attorney in 1984) addressed the Court concerning the danger to Mr. Cote if he should be sentenced to Maine State Prison. “The State does have a recommendation in this instance of a substantial period of incarceration. However, the State would urge that the Defendant not be placed in the State Prison.
We have information from [Homicide Detective/DEA Agent] Ralph Pinkham of the State Police that Mr. Cote was instrumental in some other cases, particularly involving one in which a state police officer was convicted for a corruption charge, therefore it was
indication there may be some danger to Mr. Cote were he to be placed in the State Prison. So the State would recommend that a State Prison sentence be imposed but that the defendant be held at the County Jail until the corrections system administratively could find a placement for the Defendant, perhaps in the Federal system or some other secured institution.
Cote’s Defense Attorney Charles Gilbert also addressed the Court concerning the danger to his client if he were sentenced to Maine State Prison. “Your Honor, may it please the Court, since Mr. Billings has not been representing the State in this matter, I would just indicate that that is my understanding of what Mr. Almy would have indicated had he been here. He is the one who had the contact with Sergeant Pinkham of the State Police and he is the one who, in fact, informed me of the danger of having Mr. Cote placed in the State’s Prison.
I would also indicate that there are some law enforcement authorities in the Presque Isle area—and I believe this is reflected in the pre-sentence report—especially an Officer Ferland of the Presque Isle Police Department who has indicated that Mr. Cote has been most helpful on a number of cases up in that area ... “With respect to the State’s recommendation, certainly I think it would be very dangerous based on my understanding of what’s happened [What happened? Was Attorney Gilbert referring to Mike being murdered because of Cote’s undercover work with the DEA?], to have a sentence where Mr. Cote was at all in jeopardy of being placed at any time through an administrative whim or for any other reason in the State’s Prison. There are people there including, as Mr. Billings has indicated, a former state police detective who has some very serious grudges against Mr. Cote; and his life, I believe, would be in extreme danger if he was ever placed there. “I can’t minimize his [Cote] prior criminal record, Your Honor. It’s obviously something I can’t run away from ...” Attorney Gilbert told Judge Robert L. Brown. 5
Judge Brown sentenced Cote to two years at Maine State Prison and said if Cote could administratively be assigned to some other institution, the Court would be satisfied. Cote appealed to the Law Court. Judgment was affirmed on March 2, 1982.
|1. Because he said he was from out of state I thought of a statement investigative reporter A. Jay Higgins’ said to me in 1985, when I was so upset over the state's dismissal of the indictments against the three men: "How about an overzealous cop from another area?" Could this man have been the man Higgins was referring to?)|
|2. Cote, apparently in the presence of the DEA Agents, was calling upray’s cottage to talk with Percy Sargent concerning their drug deal. Since Percy didn’t know Cote was bringing the police, why hide the fact that Mike was in the cottage with him? Percy didn’t hide Mike’s presence in the cottage from other criminals like Pollard or Cormier, why hide it from drug dealer Cote?|
3. I couldn’t believe it! Percy was
driving a red Pinto! When Mr. Everett Cross called me one year earlier,
July 1985, He said that he was up in the early morning hours of February
18, 1981 and was listening to his police scanner when he heard someone
say that there was a fire at Phillips Lake. He heard a woman say that
she had seen two men [I believe was Cormier and Pollard] walking one man
[Mike] into the woods and then she heard a gunshot. He said the person
said, “Watch for a
span class="auto-style5">red Pinto heading for Brewer.” Mr.
Cross told me this one year before I read in court transcripts that
Percy Sargent was driving the red Pinto the night he was arrested in the
drug sting. And the Maine DEA impounded the Pinto according to an
arrest warrant on Paul Pollard. It states that “[Pollard’s] arrest
occurred after Mr. Pollard came to the Bangor Police Dept. to claim a
1980 Ford Pinto, color orange ... which
was impounded by the [Maine DEA] on 2–17–81 as a result of the Drug
Arrests of Percy Sargent and David Dupray [Percy Cote’s name is
Combining Harrington’s testimony of the DEA agents impounding the red Pinto and Mr. Cross’ information about a red Pinto leaving the murder scene it appears to me that the Maine DEA agents were at the murder scene at the time Mike was being murdered. This leads me to believe that the Maine DEA knew that Mike was murdered on the morning of February 18, 1981—not six days later.
Did Pollard or Cormier see the Maine DEA Agents at the murder scene in the red Pinto? A woman saw the red Pinto at the murder scene while Mike’s murder was taking place according to Mr. Cross’ information.
4. In Dupray’s March 6, 1981 statement he told Shuman that he “felt the night of the drug deal for which he got busted that Percy was going to rip him off of the $4500 that was payment for the ten pounds of pot.”] Rather than being paid, Percy was arrested by DEA Agent Harrington. Cote was arrested by Maine State Police DEA agent David Lyons. Dupray went out a back window and tried to escape but was soon apprehended.
It was after midnight on the 18th before the three men were brought to the Penobscot County Jail. Sgt. Pinkham took a statement from an inmate at the jail who stated that “the night Percy Sargent was arrested on drug charges and brought to the Penobscot County Jail that he had overheard an inmate ... and Percy Sargent talking. Sargent had stated ... that he thought Micheal Cochran had set him up for the drug bust and that he (Sargent) had already made the call out to have Cochran taken care of.”
David Dupray’s mother bailed Dupray out of jail that night and took him to her home. Percy Sargent remained in jail until the 21st of February. David Harriman told Shuman that he bailed Percy because he had tried to kill him one time and he was scared of him. Lionel Cormier and Paul Pollard picked Percy up at the jail and took him to Cormier’s residence in East Corinth.
Feb. 24, three days after Percy was picked up at the jail he and Cormier drove to the murder scene. Fire Marshal Wilbur Ricker surprised them when he arrived there. Before going to the murder scene they had dropped Pollard off at the Bangor PD to get his red Pinto. The three panicked after Ricker caught Cormier and Percy at the murder scene and they all fled the State of Maine.
I have never learned who bailed Cote from the Penobscot County Jail, but according to a weekend edition of the BDN for February 20–21, 1981: Percy Cote was back in the Aroostook County area the next night, 160 miles north of Bangor. The article reported: “A drug-bust operation Thursday (February 19) and Friday (February 20) that spread from Houlton to Eagle Lake resulted in 21 persons being charged with 39 counts of drug law violations.” Percy F. Cote Jr’s name is listed as well as Bangor PD DEA state director Fred Clarke.
This is the article I read that led me to believe that Percy Cote was working undercover with the Maine DEA and that Mike was murdered because someone believed that Mike had informed on their drug deal. It appears that while my son lay under a still-burning pile of fire rubble, the Maine DEA drove back to Aroostook County (Percy Cote’s residence was in Aroostook County) for more drug stings. Linda Gray told friends that she arrived back at the cottage after work on February 18th and found sparks and smoke still coming from the burned cottage. Mike was left there under a pile of burned fire rubble for six days. /td>
5. I wish I could have been there to tell Mr. Gilbert that
my son didn’t live to have a serious grudge against Cote or any of the other
people who I believe were responsible for causing his murder—the Maine State
Police DEA undercover task force, Percy Sargent, Lionel Cormier, and Paul
Ralph Pinkham, Shuman’s supervisor, is concerned that Percy Cote, a man with a long criminal record, would be in danger if he was placed in the Maine State Prison. But MSP Detectives Pinkham had no concern for me when he told me that Percy Sargent had sent a phone call to have Mike taken care of and that he believed Lionel Cormier set the fire; and then looked me directly in the face and denied he had told it to me. And at that time, Shuman sat beside him and threatened me.
I believe the Maine DEA unit has a duty to be cautious in how they operate their undercover drug stings. How serious did it reflect on the Maine State Police DEA Unit that their covert operation lost a man his life for 10 pounds of marijuana. I believe because Pinkham and Shuman were involved in the February 18, 1981 drug sting that cost Mike his life, they should not have been involved in the investigation of Mike’s murder.