FARMINGTON – A Wilton man whose house burned in March was found guilty Thursday of possessing cocaine and violating conditions of release.
He was sentenced to six months in jail for both charges with all but 48 hours suspended and credited for time served. The sentences will run concurrently.
Richard D. Austin, 44, representing himself, changed his plea Thursday to no contest on the charge of unlawful possession of scheduled drugs – cocaine – and violating conditions of release for allegedly being under the influence of alcohol or drugs after he arrived at his house while it was burning early March 10.
Farmington police had arrested Austin in February on the drug charge and he was out on bail waiting arraignment when he was accused of violating release conditions.
A no-contest plea means the defendant can be convicted and sentenced for the criminal charges, but the plea cannot be used to prove the offense in a civil case.
Judge Ralph Tucker entered the plea of guilty to the misdemeanor offenses for the court record.
Tucker also sentenced Austin to one-year probation, a $500 fine for each charge and placed several conditions on his probation as requested by Assistant District Attorney Jim Andrews in the plea agreement.
Those conditions are no use or possession of illegal drugs, submit to random search and testing of person, vehicle and residence for drugs, and receive substance abuse counseling to the satisfaction of his probation officer.
Austin reached over to shake Andrews’ hand and thanked the judge before leaving the courtroom.
State fire investigator Dan Young was not available Thursday for comment on whether investigators have determined the cause of the fire that destroyed Austin’s family home on Route 156. No one was home at the time the house caught fire but the family’s dogs died in the blaze.