BIDDEFORD — A man accused of inserting razor blades and blade fragments into pizza dough balls at the Hannaford in Saco will be held in jail until his next court appearance in November.

Nicholas R. Mitchell, 38, appeared by video at the Biddeford District Court on Friday for a brief hearing. He did not enter a plea.

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This booking photo released Oct. 12 by the Dover, N.H., Police Department shows Nicholas Mitchell of Dover, accused of putting razor blades in pizza dough sold on Oct. 5 at a Hannaford supermarket in Saco. Mitchell appeared in court Friday in Biddeford. Associated Press

Mitchell is charged with reckless conduct with a dangerous weapon and violating the conditions of his release, which prohibited him from engaging in new criminal conduct or possessing dangerous weapons, including razor blades.

The two charges against Mitchell are both felonies – Class C crimes – so he is not required to enter a plea until he is indicted by a grand jury.

He was arrested Saturday in Dover, New Hampshire, on a fugitive from justice warrant for fleeing to another state when he was charged with the new crimes in Saco. He did not fight extradition to Maine and he is now being held at the York County Jail.

On the video, Mitchell sat at a small table set back from the camera, wearing an orange jail uniform and a blue medical mask. He barely spoke during the 10-minute hearing.

“Mr. Mitchell, do you have any questions about these charges, the nature of the charges or what your rights are at this moment?” District Judge Matthew Tice asked, addressing the camera from where he sat on the bench.

“Not at this moment,” Mitchell said. “No, sir.”

Tice set bail at $20,000 cash for the new charges. But the judge ordered that Mitchell still be held without bail on separate violations of bail and probation conditions. So he will likely remain at the jail until at least a dispositional conference scheduled for Nov. 18.

Even though Mitchell is held without bail right now, his defense attorney for the initial appearance, Dominic Parent, argued that $20,000 was an excessive amount for this new case, and he asked the judge to reconsider.

Parent said it was more than necessary to make sure he returns to court, and more than he can reasonably afford. “I do believe that $20,000 amount is just outside the reach of any Mainer,” he said.

Assistant District Attorney Stephanie Knight opposed that request. She noted that Mitchell is on probation from a 2018 case in which he pleaded guilty to felony criminal threatening with a dangerous weapon and served seven days in jail. He is alleged to have violated that probation in April, when he was arrested on a charge of domestic violence assault following an argument with a woman in Sanford whose son told police that Mitchell punched her in the face. He was released on personal recognizance bail in that case.

“We think $20,000 is necessary … in order to both ensure that he will return, ensure the judicial integrity, and also to protect the public from further conduct,” Knight said.

Tice said he would not reduce that bail amount.

There have been no reports of injuries or illnesses from the alleged tampering, although police in three communities in Maine and New Hampshire are now investigating incidents.

Saco police said two Hannaford customers returned bags of fresh Portland Pie Co. dough purchased Oct. 5 because they contained razor blades and sharp metal fragments. Hannaford contacted the police, and the department immediately began a criminal investigation that led to his arrest. The company also issued a recall for Portland Pie products purchased at the Saco store.

But it was not the first report of a Hannaford customer finding razor blades or razor fragments in pizza dough.

Sanford police said two customers of the Hannaford there reported finding razor blades or pieces of blades in their dough in August and told store employees. But neither customers nor the police were notified at the time. Those incidents only came to light this month after the Saco reports and are now under investigation as well.

On Sunday, Hannaford expanded its recall to all Portland Pie dough and cheese products sold at its 184 stores in New York, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.

Hannaford provided a statement attributing the failure to take action in August to a technology fault in their internal reporting system. Hannaford apologized and promised to add more safeguards to the internal system. But the company has so far refused to provide more details about what exactly went wrong with the system and how they are fixing it.

Hannaford has not responded to requests to interview a company official about the reporting failure and the recalls. The company has refused to answer questions about how much product was sold and recalled and whether other tampering has been uncovered since then. A spokeswoman has said the company is leaving it to police to decide what information should be released.

In addition to investigations in Saco and Sanford, police in Dover, New Hampshire, are also investigating a report of food product tampering at one of two Hannaford locations there. A Dover police lieutenant declined to confirm that it involved fresh pizza dough, citing local rules prohibiting the release of investigative information, although Saco police have cited similar incidents in Dover.

No charges have been filed related to the incidents in Sanford and Dover.

Police have not said what they believe Mitchell’s motive to be. But he was fired in June from the Scarborough-based company It’ll Be Pizza after 15 months of employment because he failed to show up to work too many times, according to a police affidavit filed in York County Superior Court. It’ll Be Pizza makes the dough and pizza cheese sold under the Portland Pie Co. name brand and other labels.

Saco police have said they are sharing information with about their investigation with federal authorities. It is a federal crime to tamper with food products in a way that affects interstate commerce, even if no one is sickened or harmed. A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office said he could not confirm or deny any investigation.

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