This story was updated at 5:30 p.m. Oct. 18 to correct the sentence that Robert Brown III could face if convicted.

 

PORTLAND — A judge set bail at $5,000 Tuesday for a 60-year-old Massachusetts woman, despite arguments from the prosecutor that Mattie Brown is a major heroin dealer and should be held on 10 times that amount.

Justice William Broderick presided over Brown’s initial appearance in Cumberland County Superior Court. He agreed that the early evidence appears damning against Brown, but said he could not justify the state’s request for $50,000 cash bail.

“She has no criminal record,” Broderick told Assistant District Attorney Deb Chmielewski. “I think what you’re asking for is too high.”

Brown, of Randolph, Mass., was expected to be released on bail late Tuesday. She and her son, 39-year-old Robert Brown III of Boston, were arrested Sunday by South Portland police after a traffic stop near the Maine Mall.

Police said a search of Mattie Brown and a motel room booked in her name yielded about 50 grams of heroin separated into plastic baggies, with an estimated street value of $15,000. Police said they also seized an ounce of cocaine, OxyContin pills and $6,814 in cash.

According to police and Chmielewski, Brown told investigators after her arrest that all of the heroin was hers and was intended for personal use. Chmielewski told Broderick that police found no paraphernalia for heroin use, and that the drugs clearly were meant to be sold in Maine.

Mattie Brown faces two counts of aggravated drug trafficking. Robert Brown was charged with refusing to submit to detention. He was released Sunday after posting $100 bail.

Officials said the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency, Boston police and possibly other law enforcement agencies are investigating the activities of the mother and son.

Kevin Cashman, the MDEA supervisor for southern Maine, said the demand for heroin in this state has remained steady in recent years. Of the agency’s drug-related arrests in 2008, 6 percent were for heroin, compared with 9 percent for crack cocaine, 27 percent for powder cocaine, 17 percent for marijuana and 39 percent for prescription drugs of several types.

“We’re still seeing heroin. It’s always been there, and it’s still there,” Cashman said of the drug’s flow into Maine. “One thing we have noticed is that it is coming in bagged now, similar to crack, in corner-cut baggies versus the actual heroin bags that are usually stamped with a logo, like a branding.”

About 10 members of the Brown family attended the court hearing Tuesday. They were pleased with Broderick’s decision to set bail at $5,000 for Mattie Brown, who wore an orange jumpsuit and smiled at her relatives as she entered the courtroom.

Although she has no criminal record, her son has two federal convictions for drug trafficking. He pleaded guilty in 2000 in Massachusetts to cocaine trafficking and was sentenced to five years and 10 months in prison, court records show.

In January of 2004, while Brown was living in a halfway house for federal inmates in Portland, he was arrested and charged again with cocaine trafficking. He was convicted after a trial in federal court in Portland and was sentenced to six years and three months in prison. Bureau of Prisons records indicate he was released from custody in June.

Robert Brown could face a sentence of up to life in prison if he were to be convicted for a third drug crime in the federal system.

Attorney Robert Andrews of Portland represented Brown on the second federal charge, and is representing him in the pending state matter.

“Robert didn’t know anything about this. He’s the kind of guy that steps up and does the right thing,” Andrews said. “He’s trying to fix his life.”

Andrews said Brown came to the Portland area for a weekend trip along with his daughters, his longtime girlfriend and his mother.

“They have no information suggesting he was trafficking,” Andrews said.

Robert Brown is a key figure in a nonfiction book published last year. “The Fence,” written by former Boston Globe reporter Dick Lehr, chronicles the beating of an undercover Boston police officer in January 1995 and an alleged police cover-up of the incident.

Brown, who was 24 at the time, was one of four suspects in a Lexus that was being chased by police after a fatal early morning shooting in Dorchester. According to media reports, Brown ran down a dead-end street and was chased on foot by Mike Cox, a black undercover officer in plainclothes.

Brown climbed a chain-link fence, and as Cox climbed in pursuit he was struck on the back of the head by a fellow officer. Several other officers then assaulted Cox with punches and kicks to the head and stomach, thinking they had caught one of the suspects.

Initial police reports said Cox was injured when he slipped on ice. None of the officers involved in the pursuit ever volunteered information about who was responsible for the beating, and no one was ever charged with the assault. Cox settled out of court with the city.

Brown, Ronald Tinsley, and brothers John and Jimmy Evans were charged with the murder. The Evans brothers were convicted and sentenced to life in prison. Brown and Tinsley were acquitted.

 

Staff Writer Trevor Maxwell can be contacted at 791-6451 or at: [email protected]