AUGUSTA — A Caribou man who drove into a state trooper during a high-speed chase, causing severe injuries that led to the amputation of one of the trooper’s legs, pleaded guilty Tuesday to aggravated assault and numerous other charges.

Robert Belmain, appearing Tuesday at the Capital Judicial Center, was sentenced to several years in prison for critically injuring Maine State Trooper Mickael Nunez during a high-speed chase in June of 2020. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal

Robert Belmain, 54, was also sentenced to serve 15 years in prison. The full sentence is 22 years in prison with all but 15 years suspended, meaning he will serve 15 years in prison if he complies with the terms of his four-year probation upon his release.

The state trooper, meanwhile, has since returned to full duty with Maine State Police, with a prosthetic leg from his knee down, becoming what officials believe to be the first state trooper to serve with an amputation. Belmain is also required to pay $100,000 in restitution, for the benefit of the trooper.

Belmain, who was arrested by state police in June of 2020 on 14 charges including elevated aggravated assault, pleaded guilty as part of a plea deal to aggravated assault, reckless conduct, drug possession and several other crimes at the Capital Judicial Center on Tuesday for driving into Trooper Mickael Nunez as the officer was setting up spike strips to deflate Belmain’s tires and stop his vehicle in the Kennebec County town of China.

Belmain was fleeing from police in his car June 14 when he struck Nunez on state Route 3 in China, near the Family Dollar store.

Nunez, 32, suffered a severely broken leg and later had to have the leg amputated. He declined to speak at Belmain’s plea hearing and sentencing Tuesday, but outside of court he spoke about his November return to duty as a state trooper as well as his ongoing service in the Maine National Guard. He said he hasn’t needed any special accommodations to return to duty for both police and the guard, though the support he’s gotten from friends, family, neighbors, and fellow law enforcement and guard officials have allowed him to focus on his physical rehabilitation.

“My goal was to be back to the capacity I was before,” Nunez said Tuesday after Belmain was sentenced. “I’ve met a lot of those goals, but I’m driven to bring more back, and I still have a ways to go. I don’t feel limitations on the road. Right now, I’m not running into any limitations; I’m just going back to what I was doing before.”

Nunez was hit as he was trying to retreat to a safe location along Route 3, but was instead catapulted over the car and into a ditch, according to state police. His actions did effectively stop the flight of Belmain, who first encountered police in Waterville then fled at speeds reaching 130 mph and before crashing his car and coming to a stop after he ran into Nunez.

Belmain did not address the court on Tuesday, but his attorney, Caleigh Milton, said he took full responsibility for his actions. At the time of the incident, Belmain’s father was hospitalized with a stroke, which lead Belmain back into his drug addiction and a downward spiral, Milton said, adding that Belmain expressed great remorse.

“He has repeatedly and at length said he wished this never happened, wished he stopped the car, and he did not intend to hit the trooper,” Milton said. “Throughout all of it he’s expressed remorse, about his decision not to stop, his decision to even be driving. He has accepted responsibility and wants to, to the best of his ability, start paying toward restitution.”

Belmain also pleaded guilty in unrelated cases in court Tuesday, including: in Cumberland County, aggravated trafficking in illegal drugs, fentanyl powder in a quantity of more than 6 grams; and illegal importation of scheduled drugs, both Jan. 5, 2020, in Scarborough; and, in Aroostook County, three counts of operating after revocation and two counts of violation of conditions of release.

Milton also noted Belmain was injured in the collision, too, and had surgery to place two 10-inch rods in his back. Belmain has been unable to make bail and so has been held at Kennebec County jail in Augusta since 2020, where he only recently left quarantine after he contracted COVID-19.

District Attorney Maeghan Maloney said Nunez, due to being struck by Belmain’s car, has endured numerous operations, and ultimately, his leg had to be amputated. She said the healing process has been grueling for him and involved long stays in the hospital, and he will require ongoing medical treatment and surgery and he “continues to recuperate from the result of choices that Mr. Belmain made.”

She said he will continue to persevere, but “he will be forever marked by that day.”

The chase had started about 30 minutes earlier on Interstate 95 in Waterville. Another state trooper, Eric Sucy, had stopped Belmain’s car after receiving reports that a green sports car with no license plates was being driven erratically on Interstate 95, just south of Clinton.

Maloney said Sucy approached Belmain in his vehicle and spoke to him, noticing he was trembling and unresponsive to questions and, when he leaned forward, the trooper saw two containers of white powder in his front pocket.

Shortly after the car was pulled over in Waterville, police said, Belmain sped off, with Sucy still partially in his vehicle. Police said he then drove erratically on I-95 and on Route 3 in Augusta, heading toward China.

Justice William Stokes said he thought the plea agreement worked out by both sides was fair but said there is no sentence he could impose that would be satisfactory because it could not reverse time to undo what happened that sunny, summer day.

“I don’t know that the public has a full appreciation for the dangers that police officers are under every day, out on the roads, making stops,” Stokes said. “Trooper Nunez was miles away (from the initial call), he was trying to bring this to an end. Mr. Belmain, you put a lot of people in danger, including yourself. You may have been in so much pain you didn’t care if you hurt anyone else. But there were innocent people out there, and Trooper Nunez was one of them. Trooper Nunez, you’re very lucky you didn’t die that day. Mr. Belmain, you’re very fortunate he didn’t die that day, because he could have. And then we’d be talking about homicide prosecution.”

Stokes praised Nunez for his resiliency and bravery and service.

Lt. Patrick Hood, commander of Nunez’s troop, said he’s beyond thrilled to have Nunez back on the job and said that when he shared updates on Nunez’s ongoing recovery it inspired members throughout the state agency.

Hood, who was with Nunez in the hospital the night of the incident, said Nunez’s injury was scary but, even then, Nunez stated his goal was to return to his full capabilities of before the injury. Nunez has climbed both Katahdin and Mount Washington. An avid runner, he said a remaining goal is to return to running form enough so he can match his prior running times.

He learned to drive with his left foot, so he wouldn’t need any accommodations in his cruiser.

“Pushing through it,” he said, “that’s how I’ve always been wired.”

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