Joel Strother, a Presque Isle man sentenced to 27 years for meth trafficking, as he appeared on a virutal court hearing over Zoom on Monday, Aug. 23. Credit: Alexander MacDougall / Houlton Pioneer Times

BANGOR, Maine — Joel Strother of Presque Isle was sentenced Monday in federal court to 27 years in prison for his role in a plan to distribute a large quantity of methamphetamines across communities in northern and central Maine.

Strother, 44, along with others obtained the drugs from southern and western states and Mexico. He was arrested in 2019 on charges of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute 50 grams or more of methamphetamine, according to court documents.

He also was charged with a conspiracy to engage in money laundering, but it was dismissed as part of a plea agreement prior to his sentencing. The case was part of an investigation by federal and state Drug Enforcement Agencies as well as the Department of Homeland Security.

The sentencing was held remotely over Zoom before U.S District Court Judge Lance Walker in Bangor. Given Strother’s offense level and criminal history, he faced a possible sentence range of 27-33 years.

Strother’s attorney Joel Vincent said that his client had come from an abusive home and in a culture of drugs, which had led him down the path of crime.

“The government has acknowledged Mr. Strother’s horrific background, which I argue in my sentencing memorandum likely began before birth,” Vincent said. “It goes beyond just abuse and neglect, it’s also activity based on the family dynamic where he was basically raised in a culture that steered him to this conduct in adulthood.”

Prosecuting attorney Nicholas Heimbach said that despite Strother’s traumatic background, he chose to inflict that trauma onto others.

“The defendant chose to enmesh himself and his own children in that same drug trade and drug trafficking and drug culture that he points to as a reason for his own conduct,” Heimbach said. “He brought untold suffering and trauma to a community, and to an extent that the government would not even guess to tell the court what type of suffering he has brought to the communities in Maine.”

Walker sentenced Strother to 27 years, the minimum number in the sentencing guidelines for his offenses.

“You did not start life at the top of the mountain, but on a low valley plain, and I understand all of that,” Walker told Strother prior to sentencing, acknowledging his difficult childhood in an abusive environment.

“It’s difficult to overstate, Mr. Strother, the pain and the dysfunction, and too often death, that has befallen communities both near and far all over Maine and all over this country, from Kittery to Fort Kent,” Walker said.

Strother, in a prepared statement given prior to his sentencing, acknowledged the pain his actions caused communities and his own family. He said that he was dedicated to bettering himself while in prison, getting free of his own drug addiction and taking college courses while there.

“I can now admit I was weak, and through this I have ruined my life, and I have ruined my kids’ lives,” Strother said. “I’m not sorry I got caught. I just wish I could have been caught sooner.”