|Penobscot County District Attorney using dangerous criminals as informants|
Case of Criminal as informant sours
August 12, 1986, the Bangor Daily Newspaper reported the danger of using criminals for informants during Maine DEA drug stings. As I read the articles, I thought of Mike and how he had been murdered during one of the DEA’s undercover stings.
The report said that
"The recent twist of events in the Donald Turner case reveals how wrong things can go in a controversial law enforcement approach that attempts to transform accused criminals into tarnished heroes. Facing major felony charges, Turner consented to work undercover with drug enforcement agents in an agreement that granted him immunity from other crimes he may have committed. ...
|Higgins’ BDN article didn’t name who Turner nearly
liberated but another article in February 1988 named Lionel Cormier as
one of the men who nearly escaped.
Cormier’s name was back in the news when he asked for a new trial, stating that the jury was prejudiced by the unusually strict security. Lionel Cormier while incarcerated at the Penobscot County Jail during the summer of 1986 had tried to escape by sawing through a lock with a hacksaw blade. He was tried and convicted in a high-security trial in October 1987.
Bangor Daily News Editorial—Miscarriage of Justice
The events leading up to the recent release of a dangerous criminal from 3rd District Court in Bangor as outlined by NEWS reporter A. Jay Higgins, deserves the close scrutiny of the public both for what it reveals about the District Attorney’s office and the criminal justice system.
Donald Turner already had three burglaries and theft convictions behind him last April when he was indicted by a Penobscot County grand jury for robbing a McDonald’s in Newport at gunpoint and stealing a car in Bangor. Yet a deal was struck allowing him to be sentenced for a lesser crime if he would help the state apprehend cocaine pushers.
On July 17, Turner signed the plea agreement to work as an undercover drug informant in exchange for a lesser sentence later. But less than a week later, he was under arrest again for stealing a truck. He is also believed to have been involved in an attempt to break out county jail inmates that same day. Yet because of a slip-up in communications within the district attorney’s office, he was released for ridiculously low bail and disappeared before he could be tried or sentenced for anything.
District Attorney Christopher Almy exercised bad judgment in agreeing to strike the plea bargain arrangement. Here was a criminal with an arrest record a mile long who had allegedly threatened to blow out the brains of a restaurant employee just three months before he was placed back out on the street to catch other criminals.
... Also involved in this case were judges, state police, and Turner’s defense lawyer, John Richards. ... Each bears some blame, however small, for participating in this transaction.
Almy compounded his initial mistake by failing to communicate to an assistant the importance of keeping Turner behind bars after his last arrest for stealing the truck in Bangor. His behavior was inexcusably sloppy and inexplicable considering the noteworthy events leading up to the incident. ...
However, law enforcement officials need to exercise extreme discretion in deciding who to tap for such missions. That was not done in this case. In this instance, when DA Almy calls placing the public at risk “a small trade-off” for getting a conviction, he’s wrong. [Was Mike’s life also “a small trade-off?”]