This story was edited at 11 a.m. to correct the reference to the person who reported the burglary to police.

PORTLAND – Jonathan Mitchell, a Veazie man shot by a Portland police officer while trying to escape in a car in April, was sentenced Thursday to nine months and one day in prison. That is the mandatory minimum penalty for being a habitual driving offender — the most serious offense remaining in his case after prosecutors dropped several other charges.

Mitchell, 30, pleaded guilty this week in Cumberland County Superior Court to the habitual-offender charge, along with the offenses of failing to stop for an officer and refusing to submit to arrest. Charges stemming from accusations that he had used the car in a dangerous manner while fleeing police and had broken into his estranged wife’s apartment — two counts of reckless conduct with a dangerous weapon and one count of criminal trespass — were dropped as part of a plea deal.

Mitchell’s lawyers have said he will bring a civil suit against the police, claiming excessive use of force.

Justice Roland Cole sentenced Mitchell to six months in prison for failure to stop for an officer and six months for refusing to submit to arrest, to be served concurrently with the habitual-offender sentence. Mitchell, who was on probation for an aggravated assault conviction, also will have to serve nine months afterward for violating his probation.

Cole acknowledged that there has been controversy about the facts in the case and stressed that he was not making a judgment about Mitchell’s confrontation with police.

“I understand that there are people who are unhappy with this. I think this case in some ways has been blown way out of proportion, but I don’t want to suggest that if officers were threatened by a motor vehicle that they did anything wrong. And I’m not making any judgment about that,” Cole said.

Assistant District Attorney Deb Chmielewski had asked Cole to sentence Mitchell to four years on the habitual-offender charge and nine months for the probation violation. J.P. DeGrinney, Mitchell’s court-appointed lawyer, had requested the mandatory minimum on the habitual-offender charge and six months for the probation violation.

In addition to Mitchell’s criminal history and substance abuse problems, Chmielewski cited his disregard for others as he was fleeing police as an aggravating factor.

“It’s absolutely amazing the officers weren’t struck. If either one of them was a few inches closer to the vehicle or a little bit slower in reaction, then who knows what would have happened,” she said.

Acting Police Chief Michael Sauschuck declined to comment after the sentencing, citing a pending investigation by the state Attorney General’s Office. The office examines all uses of deadly force by police to determine whether it was justified, meaning that the officer reasonably believed that deadly force was being threatened or used against someone and that deadly force was needed to stop the threat.

The investigations do not address whether the use of deadly force could have been avoided or whether an officer should be disciplined.

DeGrinney said after the sentencing that if Mitchell’s shooting was justified, the investigation of shootings by police should be ended “because it serves no purpose.”

“The officer who was involved in this is back on the force prior to the attorney general even making a decision about whether this was a good shoot or not,” DeGrinney said. “So clearly, there’s a public policy question here in terms of whether the Attorney General’s Office’s report means anything.”

The chase and the shooting occurred at about 4:40 a.m. on April 10. Police were responding to a report that Mitchell had broken into the apartment of his estranged wife while she was sleeping and he wouldn’t leave.

Mitchell drove away as his wife was making the report, and Officer Robert Miller spotted him and activated his emergency lights and siren at Washington Avenue and Inverness Street. Miller chased Mitchell’s car onto Fairfield Street, a dead end. Miller and another officer, David Schertz, then approached Mitchell on foot after he was cornered in his car.

Police have said that Mitchell tried to drive away and Schertz was afraid he would be struck. Miller fired two shots, hitting Mitchell in the neck and shoulder. Mitchell was in critical condition after the shooting. His health problems include difficulty swallowing.

On Thursday, Mitchell apologized to his family and the community. He thanked God, the court, the District Attorney’s Office and his lawyers.

“My desire is to atone for my actions and grow from this whole situation,” he said.

Mitchell’s lawyers have maintained that the officers were not in the car’s path when Miller fired. The lawyers and Mitchell’s family created a website — portlandpolicebrutality.com — that included footage from a police cruiser video to support their position. The site was deactivated last month.

DeGrinney said the encounter with police would not have occurred if Mitchell’s estranged wife had not falsely told police he was burglarizing her home. DeGrinney said the two had been hanging out, and that the wife made the 911 call after they had an argument.

Staff Writer Ann S. Kim can be contacted at 791-6383 or at:

[email protected]pressherald.com