DOVER - Calling a Vermont man's decision to drive his car directly at a Rochester Police Officer during an attempt to escape "extraordinary," a Strafford County Court judge on Friday sentenced Reuben Adams to six and a half to 20 years in a New Hampshire state prison.
Adams, who earlier presented an emotional plea for leniency on his own behalf, stood silently, shackled, in a brown jail jumpsuit as the verdict was read.
He was found guilty on two counts of reckless conduct, first for driving at a Rochester Police Officer in the old Foster's Daily Democrat building on North Main (six and a half to 20 years) and then for driving at speeds of up to 100 mph down Wakefield Street and Milton Road before crashing near the former L'il Mart near Lone Oak ice cream (five to 10 years). The sentences will run concurrently.
Adams, who was allowed to make two statements to the court during the sentencing, directly asked Strafford Superior Court Judge Larry M. Smukler for a three and a half to seven year sentence, pleading for leniency and "another chance."
Reuben Adams in court on Friday prior to sentencing.
"I'm not the animal the state makes me out to be," said Adams, who has been an on-again, off-again heroin addict since the mid-'90s. "I'm not a bad person, I made bad choices. I'm asking for a three and a half to seven. Tomorrow it will be 30 months incarcerated. Give me a chance."
His defense attorney, David Betancourt, added that Adams almost always had a job and that he had gotten himself clean and off heroin for more than a year at different times. He said the addiction flared for varying reasons, from depression when Adams' grandmother died to when his opioid prescription ran out when he was being treated for pain from a dog bite.
Betancourt said when Adams needed treatment for his heroin addiction, there was none available like there is now.
Prosecuting attorney Tim Sullivan, however, pointed to Adams' long history of drugs and using high-speed chases trying to elude capture which puts the public and police officers as well as himself at extreme risk.
Sullivan listed Adams' long criminal history, including heroin possession in 2013, a federal sentence in 2006 for possession with intent to sell, a 2003 DWI arrest and three arrests in 2000 for domestic violence, marijuana possession and another DWI.
In fact since Adams turned 17, he's spent 4,679 days incarcerated, Sullivan said.
It was this type of pattern and the heinousness of driving at an officer of the law that caused such a severe sentence, Smukler said.
"This (sentence) is not because of drugs," Smukler said. "It's because of the crime and your criminal history, because what you did driving a car at a police officer; that is extraordinary. You have a propensity for panicking."
The high-speed chase began around noon on Dec. 11, 2013, when federal agents and Rochester Police closed in on Adams, a fugitive from justice, at a Bridge Street address.
Adams bolted from the scene, got in a car, and backed out a driveway nearly striking an officer. When the same officer tried to apprehend him in the old Foster's parking lot on North Main he drove right at him again nearly running him over.
Then at speeds often in excess of 100 mph he drove down a one-way street and onto Wakefield Street and Milton Road.
Sullivan said Adams gave no thought to public safety as he drove through intersections and over a snowbank near where many workers were present and could have suffered serious injury.
Rochester Police Officer Scott Loignon made a short statement to the court saying he was inside the police station when he heard on dispatch that a police pursuit was in progress.
"I knew it had to be serious, because we don't give chase unless it's serious as a safety measure," he said. "It's pretty obvious he didn't think about what he did putting the public at risk."
Police called off the chase quickly due to safety concerns, and a short time later Adams crashed near the former L'il Mart on Milton Road.
He then ran and hid in a nearby garage. Loignon was the officer who followed Adams' footprints in the snow to the garage and made the arrest.
Before Adams can begin his sentence he must finish a sentence in Vermont for assault on a police officer and heroin possession. The Vermont sentence is expected to be finished in December of 2022. Then he will be returned to New Hampshire to begin his sentence here, Sullivan said after Friday's sentencing.
"This sends a message when the officer tells you to stop you stop," he said.