Former hunger-striker facing more prison

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BANGOR (AP) – An inmate who staged a four-week hunger strike at the Penobscot County Jail last year faces the prospect of additional prison time following a guilty plea to federal gun charges.

James Emerson, 24, pleaded guilty Friday in U.S. District Court to two counts of being a felon in possession of firearms and two counts of possessing stolen firearms. The federal charges stemmed from a burglary last year.

Emerson faces up to 10 years in federal prison and a fine of up to $250,000 when he is sentenced. No sentencing date has been set.

His case was delayed while he underwent a court-ordered psychiatric evaluation at a medical center run by the U.S. Bureau of Prisons in Devens, Mass.

But a competency hearing scheduled for Friday gave way to the plea hearing when Emerson announced his intentions to plead guilty.

Emerson lost more than 25 pounds after going on the hunger strike. At the time, Emerson said he would rather starve to death than go to prison after being arrested in April 2005 along with four other men on charges or burglarizing several homes in Corinth.

While awaiting trial on state charges in the Penobscot County Jail, Emerson refused to eat. He also fought jail personnel’s intent to force feed him.

He ended the hunger strike after his mother, Penny Emerson, told him she was afraid he would do permanent damage to his health. After the meeting, Emerson said he had told her that he no longer wanted to kill himself and would ask for food.

Little more than a week after ending his hunger strike, however, Emerson tried to hang himself with a bedsheet. His face was red but corrections officers found him before he needed resuscitation, according to Penobscot County Sheriff Glenn Ross.

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