PORTLAND — When Donna Pagnani was pulled over during a traffic stop, she confessed to the Maine State Police trooper she was addicted to drugs and recited a poem she had composed about the depths of her addiction.

Donna Pagnani Androscoggin County Sheriff’s Department photo

On Monday, a federal judge sentenced Pagnani, 39, of Auburn to nearly five years in prison on a felony charge of possession of fentanyl with the intention to distribute.

Pagnani had been returning from Lawrence, Massachusetts, where she had bought roughly 50 grams of the drug, enough to feed her five-gram-per-day habit.

She made the trip weekly, she told the trooper, who had pulled her over in her late mother’s 2006 black Cadillac on the Maine Turnpike on May 31, 2019, for speeding through a construction zone.

Her attorney, Peter Rodway, told U.S. District Court Judge George Z. Singal that Pagnani suffers from borderline personality disorder and anti-social personality disorder in addition to her drug addiction.

Rodway had sought a sentence of the nearly three years Pagnani has spent in jails in Maine and New Hampshire awaiting trial — plus one month.


“During her time at either the Strafford County Jail or the Cumberland County Jail, Ms. Pagnani was often locked down in solitary confinement, 23 hours per day due to COVID restrictions,” Rodway wrote in a sentencing memorandum. “Most jail programs were suspended because of COVID, resulting in no opportunity for Ms. Pagnani to engage in rehabilitative work while detained.”

While in jail, Pagnani contracted COVID-19 and was sick for several weeks, Rodway said.

“She was not allowed visitors,” Rodway said. “From her interactions with the court while this case has been pending, the court has seen firsthand, the deterioration in Ms. Pagnani’s mental health status, even to the point of requiring a competency evaluation. In short, her preconviction time in jail has been harsh. Therefore, just punishment has already been imposed.”

She will be placed in a prison that can address her mental health needs, Singal ordered, and she’s be enrolled in a 500-hour comprehensive drug-treatment program.

After Pagnani has served her 57-month sentence, she will be put on four years of supervised release, during which time she must participate in mental health treatment, enroll in drug and alcohol abuse therapy and have no alcohol nor illegal drugs for which she can be searched and tested.

After her arrest, a judge had allowed allowed Pagnani to be released from jail temporarily so she could attend a four- to six-month residential drug treatment program in Bangor. She had left the program after three months because, her then-lawyer had told the judge, the program hadn’t been equipped to address her “unique” mental health problems.

Court papers show Pagnani had a “lengthy criminal history, beginning at age 15” and had a “significant substance abuse history.”

When arrested, Pagnani had recently been freed on bail from a state probation revocation on a different felony drug charge.

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