AUBURN — A judge sentenced a Lisbon man Monday to spend nine months in jail, saying something must be done to stop the proliferation of opioid drugs that continue to kill people in the community.

A lawyer for Jeffrey Lake, 33, had argued in Androscoggin County Superior Court that his client should be allowed to continue treatment at home for his own addiction to the drug that killed his 28-year-old neighbor to whom he furnished heroin almost a year ago.

It was a case of an addict supplying an addict, Luke Rioux said. Lake had ingested the same drug himself.

“Somehow, he didn’t overdose,” Rioux said.

Assistant Attorney General Johanna Gauvreau said the drug Lake and Corey Coburn, also of Lisbon, had believed was heroin was actually fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, 20 to 100 times more potent than heroin. Coburn had died of acute intoxication from a combination of fentanyl and oxycodone.

Lake told police he had given Coburn the drug. He was charged with unlawful furnishing of scheduled drugs, a felony punishable by up to five years in prison.

In August, Lake pleaded guilty to that charge in an arranged agreement that he would be sentenced to three years in prison but would not have to serve more than nine months in jail. He was allowed to argue for no jail time. He also agreed to spend two years on probation, pay a $400 fine and $120 in restitution to the Lisbon Police Department to cover the cost of drug handling and testing.

At the August hearing, Coburn’s sister, Meghan Stuart, read a letter aloud in the courtroom. The atmosphere became so emotionally charged that the hearing was suspended and continued to Monday.

Justice MaryGay Kennedy characterized the statements from Coburn’s family as: “very emotional and gut-wrenching.”

In her letter, Stuart said she and her brother had lost their 3-year-old sister when they were kids. When Stuart’s mother, Heidi-Sue, called her at 5:30 a.m. on Nov. 14, 2015, to tell her that her brother was dead, Meghan Stuart told the court, “I can remember screaming in my house, asking, ‘What do you mean? They found him and he was on his way to the hospital, right?'”

Emergency medical technicians were unable to revive Coburn.

Stuart read in court: “I remember I stood on my porch and I don’t normally pray, but I said, ‘God, there is no way you can take my brother too. He couldn’t be gone.'”

Stuart and her mother sat in the back of the courtroom on Monday during Lake’s sentencing. When Justice Kennedy delivered Lake’s sentence, Meghan Stuart collapsed in sobs in her mother’s arms.

Kennedy outlined the sentencing process, telling Lake his sentence was one of the hardest decisions a judge has to make.

“The crime that has been committed in this case, the behavior in this case, is something that is happening all of the time and somehow, some way, we have to make this behavior stop,” Kennedy said. “And if it is letting the community know that even if you were just hanging out with your friends and were just buying a little bit of drugs so you can share them and not to make a lot of money, you’re still committing a crime and that crime has an impact on our community.”

She said: “There is a significant opioid addiction problem in this state … and in this community. Whether the defendant and Corey were best friends or just casual acquaintances, the interaction that they had was one based upon the buying, selling and using of drugs,” Kennedy said. “It is a behavior that is significant and always has an awful result.”

Lake is a college graduate, having earned a business degree and landed a job at L.L.Bean; he owns a house in Lisbon.

Rioux said Lake’s job and house and sobriety would be put in jeopardy if he were to be jailed.

“To put Jeffrey in jail for nine months or even 30 days is something that will cause the delicate balance he has maintained for the last year to be profoundly upset,” Rioux said. “Mr. Lake has done absolutely everything he can to turn his life around. He was in a horrifically bad place. He was in a place where he very well could have been Corey Coburn. There’s no reason that he shouldn’t have overdosed from the exactly same drug. For some reason that didn’t happen. Mr. Lake has been wracked by guilt. He’s been in counseling. He’s done everything he can to fight the addiction that put him in that position and put Corey in that position.”

Sending Lake to jail could end up undoing everything he had worked to achieve, Rioux said.

“The enemy, your honor, is addiction. The enemy is the profound effect these chemicals have on a certain segment of the population. Jeff Lake didn’t want to be a drug addict. He didn’t think it would be fun or a good time. But that’s what happened,” Rioux said.

Lake’s family, seated in the courtroom, wrote letters to the court along with friends detailing his good civic standing in the community, participating in sports, Cub Scouts and generously assisting neighbors.

Kennedy cited those letters, quoting that he is a “good person” and the adverse circumstances have “not changed his character.”

She commended his efforts at sobriety, which is nearing the one-year mark.

“He’s done lots of really, really good things,” Kennedy said. “But for whatever reason, all of those good things sort of got lost for a period of time when Mr. Lake was using drugs.”

Gauvreau said police had recovered scales, marijuana and a cellphone from Lake’s home. Texts from his cellphone show he arranged to meet with Coburn that night to get “the killer s***.”

She said Coburn’s overdose wasn’t the first time he had furnished heroin to someone and that he must be held accountable, despite a minimal criminal record that only includes a 2001 conviction for disorderly conduct.

Lake was given until mid-January to report to Androscoggin County Jail to serve his sentence. Rioux said his client is considering whether to appeal his sentence.

In the meantime, Lake will continue to be free on $500 bail.

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The full text of a letter, composed by Meghan Stuart, which she read in Androscoggin County Superior Court in August:

“I was nine and Corey was twelve when we lost our sister Hannah. She was born with a rare disease and fought very hard but passed away when she was three years old. I can remember everything from that day, where I was in the hospital, the drink I had, the show on in the waiting room. Everything from the day is still so clear. Losing one sibling is hard enough and never did I think I would have to go though it again, and be left with memories of a sibling gone to soon.

“I can remember waking up at 5:30am and having a phone call from my moms house. I answered initially feeling confused only to hear a background noise of chaos, my mom shrieking, and my step-dad saying that my mom has just woke up and found Corey and they think he overdosed. I can remember screaming in my house asking what do you mean? They found him and he was on his way to the hospital right? I don’t know how but the phone disconnected. At this point i’m trying to frantically call them back, all while screaming and crying in my own home. I remember feeling complete shock and confusion. John called me back and said he was on the way.

 

“I remember I stood on my porch and I don’t normally pray but I said to God there is no way you can take my brother too. He couldn’t be gone. It felt like it was taking forever for john to arrive. John picked me up and raced back to the house just saying “idk meg, idk” and crying so hard. I knew though, there was no way he was gone. After everything we have gone though as a family, and everything we have done. I got to my mom house and raced inside. I didn’t understand why the EMTs were not in my brothers room and no one was doing anything. My mom came out to tell me he was gone, and I just remember dropping and crying and thinking this couldn’t be true. My brother Corey could not be gone.

 

“I remember having to wait hours before we could see him. Sitting in my living room, the living we grew up in, knowing we would never share another moment together. Having people walk in an out of our home , doing their ‘jobs’ This was normal for them, and here we were having our normality totally thrown out the window. We were finally able to see Corey, there he was laying on his bed, hands folded. He was so still, so cold. I laid next to my brother and hugged him and cried. I didn’t want to let go. I could remember at my sisters funeral I held her hand the whole time, I made sure to keep it warm and keep her warm. This is how I felt with Corey. I needed to hold him to keep him warm. I couldn’t believe this was happening.

 

“I cant explain the crippling feeling this brings on. It lingers, it never goes away, it fades slightly, but its never gone, and just when you think the straw has reached the surface enough to breath you are sucked down so hard and furious to a dark place of pain, and anger and confusion.

 

“Corey didn’t always make the best choices but he was working hard. He was working at a job he loved and meeting new people and he was continuing to surround himself with positive people who wanted the best for him. I know more than anything else Corey did not want to die. My brother was an amazing person. He would do anything for anyone in need, often helping others before himself. He was always smiling and could easily make you laugh. Corey was warm and true, he was a beautiful soul.

 

“Corey passed away when my son was barley three months old. He will never have any memories of my brother besides photos and stories. My daughter who was almost 3 remembers things when we point them out in photos but her last memory is of “Corey and the Count” and that’s because we included The Count from Sesame Street in his casket. Every day he is missed. I have to be strong for my children but I often find myself angry or anxious. Often things are not fair in life, but this never should have happened. The lack of control I feel and the slow every day realization that I will never see my brother again, I will never hug him and feel him pat my back is crippling. I want to wake up from this dream and I want him to come home. The sense of grief is so overwhelming. I cry on my drives to and from work talking to Corey and attempting to relieve any amount of pain. My brother didn’t just die on November 14th, he dies again every time a moment is missed. Every time were left thinking what if, this emptiness will never go away, there is always going to be something missing. I often think to myself that I am ready for this to be over as if I have a choice. This will never be over. My brother is not ever going to come back. Do you know how that feels? Do you know how horrible it feels that I can barley remember my daughters third birthday because I was still so depressed I couldn’t mentally be there? I have missed work, and have moments where the pain is to much and anxiety sets in.

 

“My mother is the strongest person I know. I have 2 children myself and I cant even imagine losing them. This has changed her, this has wrecked her life. I know my mother loves me, I know she loves my children, but I sometimes wonder how she can balance the pain she feels for her two children lost. She tries to hide it, and still at 26 shield me from pain but I know she is hurting everyday. Most times when I call her I can hear a crackle in her voice, letting me know she had probably just stopped crying to answer the phone. Or I have calls from my Aunts wanting to know how she is because she wont answer her phone from being depressed.

 

“I don’t believe Mr. Lake intended to kill my brother but unfortunate for us he did. I in my heart have to try to believe he has some remorse, but for me it will come with action. You, from what we have been told have not shared any information about who you received the drugs from. If you are trying to get better, and going to rehab then who are you trying to protect? Someone in your chain of connections knowingly and willing miss represented the drug that killed my brother. Why do you want to protect someone who clearly doesn’t care about someone’s life? We also, unfortunate for you live in a small town and the fact is , that someone else almost died of an overdose due to you just a month prior to my brother, that was your accident, that should have been more than a wake up call to either stop dealing, or get help if that was the issue. This was you being careless for some extra money.

 

“I also know that this wasn’t your first time selling to my brother when he was in a time of weakness. How could you still sell drugs when you had just nearly killed someone? You cant be this heartless? As much as I would like to hate you though, I cant. I am told you have issues your working on and so I can only hope a true and sober you makes better choices, but this doesn’t change the fact that the choice you made to sell drugs killed my brother. I have reversed the rolls a thousand times in my head, what would I do if someone else had died, or Mr. Lake because my brother shared this drug that was contaminated. I have always come to the same conclusion, even though I love my brother very much a life was taken and there must be a consequence for that. I would want him to accept the punishment given to him with an open mind and take this as a chance to change and be thankful he is alive.

 

“The time in jail time being presented to you today is a small portion compared to the price my brother is paying. You get to go home when this is all over, Corey is still gone. You might miss some milestones but there is always next year. We have to continue on each year with a hole. I will never have the nieces and nephews I once imagined, nor will my children have a relationship with their Uncle Corey. This has forever changed the coarse of so many lives and there must be a consequence. My brother didn’t die for nothing. Something needs to be done and some sort of justice served.

 

“I love and miss my brother so much everyday. I will never get over this, this will never be okay or make sense. We will always feel lost. Your brain can be so evil, even today, going through this, it feels like we are ending something after today. But with this ending, there is no happiness, and Corey is not coming back.”

 

See also: 

How it all started – Corey Corburn’s pain begat addiction


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