AUBURN — Less than a month before he was found dead from an accidental opioid overdose, Officer Nicholas Meserve of the Lewiston Police Department had pocketed fentanyl, a synthetic form of heroin, at the scene of an arrest during a traffic stop.

Defendant Jamil Dabson thanks defense attorney Donald Hornblower after his court appearance Thursday. Dabson received a sentence of 187 days for time served. He had been charged with drug trafficking, but that charge was dismissed when he pleaded no contest Thursday to a drug possession charge. Prosecutors said the late Lewiston Police Officer Nicolas Meserve, who assisted with the stop, appeared to have pocketed some of the fentanyl recovered at the scene. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

The incident came to public light Thursday during a plea hearing in Androscoggin County Superior Court, when prosecutors said “it appears that Officer Meserve slipped some of the drug evidence into his pants pocket while outside the view of other officers,” during the arrest of Jamil Dabson in January.

The images were captured on video from a Lewiston police cruiser camera Jan. 18, shortly before midnight at Main and Sabattus streets.

A Maine State Police trooper had pulled over a taxi whose headlights were off, according to court papers.

Dabson, 33, of New York and Lewiston, was a passenger in the back seat of the cab.

The trooper discovered Dabson had been on bail conditions that allowed him to be searched on suspicion of drug possession. Trooper Marcus Reny found 86 grams of fentanyl bricks rolled up in pajama pants in Dabson’s backpack, according to Reny’s affidavit.

Dabson, who had tried to flee the scene, was arrested and charged with aggravated trafficking in scheduled drugs, a felony punishable by up to 30 years in prison.

On Thursday, prosecutors dismissed the drug charge and two related charges against Dabson in an agreement between defense attorney Donald Hornblower and prosecutors, based on Meserve’s actions during the arrest.

Assistant Attorney General John Risler told the judge the agreement is based on significant evidentiary issues that involved the late Meserve, specifically video footage showing Meserve “assisting other officers at the scene by picking up the evidence.”

The video also shows Meserve slipping “some of the drug evidence into his pants pocket while outside the view of other officers,” and then he goes off camera “with the evidence for a brief period of time.”

Prosecutors in this case had earlier filed a motion for a protective order aimed at impounding the cruiser video, a police report summarizing the video and a report summarizing relevant information gathered to date as part of another ongoing criminal investigation.

“The state is aware of discoverable information in this case that pertains to or was gathered during another ongoing criminal investigation,” according to that motion filed by Assistant Attorney General Darcy Mitchell.

A judge ordered the evidence in the case, including the video, be shared only with the defendant and his lawyer, but barred them from disseminating the evidence or describing their contents to anyone.

Although that order is still active, in court Thursday Risler described Meserve’s actions shown on the video. The parties and the judge had agreed to this as an exception to the judge’s gag order.

Under the plea agreement, Dabson pleaded no contest to a drug possession charge for which he was sentenced to an agreed-upon 187 days in jail, the length of time he had been locked up awaiting trial.

Even though his sentence has now been served, Dabson was not released. He is being held on a warrant out of New York and is expected to be extradited back there to face “serious felony charges” related to robbery and assault, Risler said.

Other charges, including unrelated domestic violence assault, were dismissed or given concurrent sentences.

Shortly after Dabson’s hearing Thursday, Lewiston Police Chief Brian O’Malley released a statement saying an investigation into Meserve’s death was complete, and that the independent investigation included an extensive review of incidents involving Meserve’s actions during the January traffic stop.

O’Malley said the investigation found that no other Lewiston police officer was aware of Meserve’s drug use or his possession of illegal drugs.

O’Malley said the city is negotiating with the police unions to establish a drug-testing policy as a means to identify substance-use issues and provide resources for employees to deal with dependency or addiction.

The Lewiston Police Department offers an employee assistance program and a peer support team. Additionally, O’Malley said, the department conducts regular reviews of officers’ use of force, use of sick time and performance evaluations. It also reviews complaints from the public.

Meserve’s death, O’Malley said, “is a reminder that the opioid epidemic touches the lives of many in the community, regardless of their wealth, race, religion or profession.”

Meserve, 34, who was born in Lewiston and attended Auburn and Gray-New Gloucester schools, died at his home Feb. 8. from acute fentanyl intoxication, according to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.

Officer Nicholas Meserve of the Lewiston Police Department crosses Ash Street in Lewiston with other officers as they walk down Howe Street while searching for a man who had shot at a vehicle in 2016. Meserve, 34, died at his home Feb. 8. from acute fentanyl intoxication, according to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. Sun Journal file photo