MILLINOCKET, Maine — Town Councilor Gilda Stratton pleaded guilty Wednesday to driving drunk in January and will be sentenced on April 6 to 72 hours in an alternative sentencing program, a $600 fine and 150-day driver’s license suspension, according to a court official.
Millinocket District Court Judge Kevin Stitham accepted the plea during Stratton’s first appearance in court since she was issued a summons after a single-vehicle crash on Jan. 19, Penobscot County District Attorney R. Christopher Almy said.
Almy complimented arresting Officer David Cram for the work he did dispelling Stratton’s possible alibi. Stratton, 69, initially told police that she went to her Congress Street home and began drinking after she left her Pontiac sedan in a snowbank on Central Street because she was “a nervous wreck” after the crash.
“The best part of this case was the first-rate job that Cram did in investigating and putting all the evidence together,” Almy said Wednesday. “He located several witnesses who had been with her prior to this, determined where she was drinking and how much she had drank. He went and established that she clearly drank before the crash and not after.”
A Breathalyzer test performed on Stratton at the police station a few hours after the crash revealed she had a blood-alcohol level of 0.16, which is twice Maine’s legal limit of 0.08 for operating a vehicle, police have said.
Attempts to contact Stratton on Wednesday were unsuccessful. The telephone number listed for Stratton on the town’s website has been disconnected.
Town Council Chairman Richard Angotti Jr. said that Stratton’s status as a council member has not changed.
It “will not change unless she decides to change it,” he said Wednesday.
T he Town Charter calls for the removal of a town councilor if
“convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude.”
USLegal.com defines moral turpitude as: “a corrupt or depraved or degenerate act or practice. Moral turpitude refers generally to conduct that shocks the public conscience. Offenses such as murder, voluntary manslaughter, kidnapping, robbery, and aggravated assaults involve moral turpitude. However, assaults not involving dangerous weapons or evil intent have been held not to involve moral turpitude.”
Through her attorney, Nolan Tanous of Millinocket, Stratton asked that her sentencing be delayed until April 6 to prepare for the loss of her license, Almy said.
A message left at Tanous’ office was not immediately returned.
When interviewed on Jan. 21, Stratton said she was driving home from performing errands out of town when the crash occurred. A witness told police that he gave Stratton a ride home after the crash because she complained that she was cold, Millinocket Police Chief Steve Kenyon has said.
A check with the Maine State Bureau of Identification revealed that Stratton had no criminal record before her being issued the summons. A retired paralegal secretary and former Great Northern Paper Co. administrative assistant, her three-year term expires in November 2017. She was first elected to the council in November 2011.