City man admits role in meth lab

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AUBURN – A Lewiston man who pleaded guilty Tuesday to two felony drug charges stemming from the discovery of a methamphetamine lab in his apartment is expected to spend up to four years in prison.

Louis Rubino Jr., 24, admitted his crimes and apologized to Androscoggin County Superior Court Justice Ellen Gorman.

“I’m not as bad as everyone thinks I am,” he said shortly before his sentencing.

Police raided his Sabattus Street apartment in January and found evidence he was cooking meth.

Three other counts against him, including a felony, were dropped in exchange for his plea.

He pleaded guilty to one count of unlawful trafficking of scheduled drugs and one count of unlawful possession of scheduled drugs.

He was sentenced to 10 years with all but four suspended for trafficking. He also was sentenced to four years on the possession charge, but will serve both terms concurrently. After prison, he will be on probation for four years, Gorman said. He had faced up to 22 years on the five counts.

Police said they were tipped off by a woman who bought meth from Rubino. His neighbors had complained of noise that sounded like muffled gunshots coming from his second-floor apartment. One of them told police an explosion shot flames out Rubino’s apartment window. Several people complained of sore throats and respiratory problems and said they smelled chemicals.

When police went to investigate, they found a can of ether and cold tablets in a garbage bag on Rubino’s porch. Both items are commonly used in making meth. A search warrant turned up more evidence of a meth lab in his apartment, including a bottle with traces of the drug in it.

Rubino told police in an interview that he knew how to make the drug and was hooked on it, Assistant Attorney General David Fisher told Gorman during the plea hearing.

Clad in orange jail garb, Rubino stood at a microphone and told Gorman he was sorry. Earlier this year, he had to be restrained by an officer and his lawyer when he lurched in the direction of the judge’s bench after he was denied visits with his 3-year-old daughter.

“I apologize for any differences me and you have been in,” he said. He also said he was sorry for any harm he might have caused his family.

Police evacuated the four-unit apartment building after an officer saw mist rising from one of the trash bags. Rubino’s daughter and other apartment dwellers were taken to the hospital for observation. The child was then taken into state custody.

Gases created by the process of cooking meth can be toxic and volatile, a Lewiston police officer testified during a hearing Monday.

“I never meant to put my daughter or my girlfriend in danger,” Rubino said Tuesday. “I would like you to know that I care about my family more than anything in the world.”

His girlfriend, Donna Marie Pagnani, 23, pleaded guilty last week to endangering the welfare of a child. She faces up to one year in jail. Her sentencing is set for September.

Prosecutors said she agreed to cooperate with the Attorney General’s Office as part of her agreement. Four other counts, including two felonies, were dropped.

The agreement “accurately reflects her criminal conduct, which was living with a meth cook,” Assistant Attorney General James Cameron said Monday. “That’s what she did wrong.”


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