PORTLAND – Career criminal Norman Dickinson pleaded guilty to a burglary charge Tuesday, admitting to a judge that he broke into a Portland business and took cash from a safe.

The 39-year-old was arrested two months ago in connection with a burglary in July at Gilman Electric. He has been jailed since, awaiting sentencing in Cumberland County.

Dickinson has been incarcerated most of his life since he was 12 and has had difficulties re-entering society each time he leaves prison. He was released numerous times in recent years only to be sent back to jail or prison for violating his probation.

In 1990, Dickinson was convicted of kidnapping and robbing two women near the Maine Mall in South Portland a year earlier.

According to court records, Dickinson was carrying a toy gun when he approached the women. He claimed to be an undercover officer. Investigators said Dickinson ordered one of the women to drive him to a secluded area a short distance away.

He told her was going to sexually assault her, but that she would be OK if she complied. The woman escaped, and Dickinson was later caught, tried and convicted.

In late 1996, he was about to be released from prison after serving seven years of a 20-year sentence. Court officials ordered that he be held under house arrest, and Dickinson reacted by writing a letter to a Superior Court justice, describing himself as a “bomb.”

“I feel your honor is setting me up for failure,” Dickinson wrote to the judge. “I feel your restricting me to my home for five years is going to be the spark that sets the bomb off.”

Before Dickinson could be released, police alerted residents in Portland of the move through the news media. After that, Dickinson was sent to a prerelease center in Bangor for three months.

In 1997, Lewiston residents expressed their anger and fear when plans to release Dickinson in the city began to circulate.

City leaders fought the prison system to keep Dickinson out. The police chief fumed that Lewiston was being used as a “dumping ground.”

The outcry thwarted Dickinson’s plans for freedom. He was ordered to remain in prison after refusing to come to Lewiston to face angry residents.

Three years later, after more prison time, Dickinson finally came to Lewiston and moved to an apartment on Drew Street. Police dutifully notified neighbors and waited for fallout.

Four days later, Dickinson was accused of exposing himself to three women while walking down the road. He was sent back to prison and later released, remaining free only until he was charged with the Gilman Electric heist.


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