WISCASSET, Maine (CNN) — A priest with the Episcopal Diocese of Maine is out on bail, after being arrested earlier this month for allegedly smuggling painkiller drugs into a prison.
Police say a joint investigation revealed that Reverend Stephen Foote would frequently visit a former parishioner at the Two Bridges Regional Jail in Wiscasset.
That inmate was 25-year-old Joshua Theriault-Patten, who lived in Bremen — the same town as Revered Foote, police say.
The Lincoln County Sheriff’s Department says that in conjunction with officials at Two Bridges Regional Jail and the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency, they uncovered a drug smuggling operation that involved Reverend Foote, Theriault-Patten and another inmate, 27-year-old Adam Shawley of Newport.
“The inmates in the jail had contacts on the outside who mailed the drug to the Reverend and gave him instructions on how to get them into the jail,” says Lt. Michael Murphy of the Lincoln Co. Sheriff’s Department.
Investigators say Reverend Foote confessed when confronted.
“He believed he was helping his parishioner out by bring him these drugs,” Murphy adds.
The drug was identified as Suboxone – a synthetic opiate.
Investigators say the drug was not intended to be distributed in the jail, but used by the two inmates involved.
“He knew full-well what he was doing was illegal and that it was a criminal offense and that if he got caught, he’d be in big trouble and he understands and he seems willing to just step up and just take whatever is handed down to him.”
Now the Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Maine says Reverend Foote has been placed on administrative leave, pending the outcome of this investigation.
“It’s very sad news and unexpected news. Steve Foote, an experienced and much-respected priest in the diocese, and this is new information we are all wrestling with,” says Bishop Stephen Lane with the Episcopal Church of Maine.
The sheriff’s department expects Foote to be indicted by the grand jury within the next month.
The two inmates – already in jail – face charges of attempted trafficking in prison contraband.