The former head of the Maine Turnpike Authority, who is serving a 3½-year sentence for what prosecutors called one of the most egregious cases of public corruption in the state’s history, is scheduled to be released from prison Wednesday to home confinement.
Paul Violette, 61, will have served less than 20 months in prison when he leaves the Bolduc Correctional Facility in Warren under the state’s Supervised Community Confinement Program to go live with his older brother, Dennis Violette, in Orrington for the remainder of his sentence.
Violette was sentenced in 2012 to seven years – half to be served in prison and half on probation – for stealing as much as $230,000 from the Maine Turnpike Authority for his personal use from 2003 to 2010. Upon his release to home confinement, he can begin to complete 1,500 hours of community service required as part of that sentence. He will be in the home confinement program until Jan. 8, 2015.
“He’ll be picked up, and he’ll be living with us,” Dennis Violette said in a brief phone conversation. He confirmed that Violette would be released Wednesday, but declined to comment further about his brother’s future.
Violette led the Turnpike Authority for 23 years before his public theft came to light. He used credit and gift cards paid for by the authority to stay in five-star hotels, eat meals in high-end restaurants here and abroad and pay for luxuries such as spa treatments, casino outings and tailored tuxedos.
Violette’s misdeeds led the state to pass a new pension forfeiture law in 2012, as a stronger deterrent against corruption by public officials. The law, known as the “Violette Bill,” did not affect Violette retroactively. He will keep his $5,288.51-per-month state pension, although he has paid $155,000 in restitution that was based in part on his future retirement income.
Violette stayed in touch with his family and friends while in prison through an online blog maintained by Marc and Margaret Violette, Violette’s brother and sister-in-law, called “Friends of Paul.”
“Paul is already making arrangements to secure volunteer jobs in the Bangor-Brewer area so that he can fulfill the community service obligation of his sentence. While he’ll be living in a home environment, his movements outside of the house will be closely restricted and tightly regulated,” they wrote in an Oct. 26 blog post.
In an open letter from Violette posted on the blog on June 17, Violette described life at Bolduc, a minimum security facility, saying, “Nothing is perfect but I couldn’t ask for much more.”
Violette said he shared a prison room with “good roommates” and that he made “several good friends” with whom he socialized in prison and shared meals. He helped other inmates write letters, apply for jobs and understand legal documents. He was approved to work as a full-time volunteer at the Thomaston Public Library.
“I’ve just started this job but already I am working on a number of tasks and projects including getting familiar with the library’s collection, working at the circulation desk, helping with a database project about a local cemetery, helping patrons find books, covering and repairing books, etc. There’s a ton of work to be done and I’m happy to help however I can,” Violette said in the letter. “Besides giving me the great opportunity to work in the community, my job at the library means that I am able to earn two additional ‘good time’ days per month off my sentence, from seven days to nine.”
Violette did not respond to a request for an interview filed through the Department of Corrections.
Peter Mills, who replaced Violette as the Turnpike Authority’s director, said he was contacted by the Department of Corrections since the authority is considered the “victim” of Violette’s crimes. Mills, in turn, notified the Turnpike Authority board.
“I think it is the consensus of the board that this is a matter for the Department of Corrections,” Mills said. “How they manage the remainder of that sentence is up to their discretion.”
Mills said that when he first took office, people often associated the Turnpike Authority with Violette’s crimes. Since then, he feels the authority has regained the public’s trust.
“I talk to toll collectors on the front line. Two to three years ago, when his case was seeing such notoriety, toll collectors were taking some feedback,” Mills said.
“We’ve tried to be as transparent as possible, and that’s gone a long way to the public.”
Scott Fish, spokesman for the Department of Corrections, said the Supervised Community Confinement Program that Violette will be participating in was designed as a substitute for parole when the state began phasing out its parole program decades ago.
The Legislature approved the program in 1991, but it was not implemented until 1998.
“You have to have a plan for your release, a place to go, a job,” Fish said.
In the program, participants are still considered prisoners but are monitored by probation officers.
They are allowed to leave the house only to work, perform community service, receive medical or behavioral treatment, or obtain an education.
Violette will still have a 3½-year probation term to serve after completing the home confinement portion of his sentence.
To qualify for the Supervised Community Confinement Program, inmates with sentences of less than five years must have served at least half of the total, with good-behavior time included in the equation.
Violette began his prison sentence on April 13, 2012.
Scott Dolan can be reached at 791-6304 or at: