April 07, 2020

Convict who foiled jailbreak receives break in sentencing> Man gets almost 12 years for firearm violation

BANGOR — A Somerset County man Thursday was sentenced in U.S. District Court to 11 2/3 years in prison for a firearms violation.

Because Clifford E. Whitt, 42, provided federal authorities with information that foiled an October 1997 jailbreak at the Kennebec County Jail in Augusta, he got a total of four years taken off the mandatory minimum sentence for his crime.

Whitt, also known as Jason Travis Stevens, also was ordered to undergo five years of supervised release upon completion of his prison term. He has been jailed since June, most recently at the Supermax facility in Warren.

Before his arrest last summer, Whitt reportedly lived in towns including Canaan, Waterville, Anson and Starks. In October 1997 he changed his plea to guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm. Because he has an extensive list of burglary convictions, beginning in 1977, Whitt is classified as an armed career criminal and faced a mandatory sentence of 15 years to life in prison.

U.S. sentencing guidelines developed in the late 1980s further reduced the maximum sentence for a crime similar to Whitt’s to a range of 188 to 235 months. The government, however, asked U.S. District Judge Morton Brody to depart from the guidelines and to sentence Whitt to 158 months in prison because of significant information he provided about the jailbreak plan.

Whitt’s attorney, Brett Baber, asked for a sentece of seven to eight years. Witnesses testified Thursday that Whitt has been in jail most of his life and has trouble coping with life outside of the criminal justice system. He also suffers from impulse control disorder, according to a mental-health counselor who testified Thursday.

Whitt’s elderly mother, Frances Bowen, said her son lived with her sporadically since his release from jail in the spring of 1997. He eventually moved in with a woman who had four children. The children “looked up to him, more than they did their own mother,” Bowen recalled. Eventually the state took custody of the children which is when her son broke down according to Bowen. “He said `Mom, I can’t take no more.’ A week later he was picked up,” Bowen said in court.

Whitt earlier pleaded guilty to two separate burglaries in Madison in May and June of 1997. During the first burglary on May 21, 1997, at Gehrke’s Store on Route 201, a .22-caliber rifle was taken. During the second burglary, on June 7 at the Main Street law office of Neal Corson, a .22-caliber revolver was taken.

However, Whitt did himself a big favor, according to court papers, when he tipped off officials at the Kennebec County Jail in October, 1997, that an attempted escape was being planned.

According to a court affidavit, the jailbreak plan called for a person to toss a bag containing a loaded handgun and gloves over the wall and into the yard of the Kennebec County Jail. While Kenneth Meader retrieved the weapon and held off the lone guard, the other inmates were to subdue the guard and then join Meader in scaling the wall and fleeing in a getaway car left nearby.

The alleged plot unraveled after Whitt told investigators Kenneth Meader devised a plan that involved Whitt and three other inmates, according to court documents.

A few days before the planned break, Brent McSweyn, a special agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, portrayed himself as a friend of Kenneth Meader and gave Meader’s son, Jody Meader, a 9 mm pistol, a box of clothes and $100 to help in the jailbreak, according to an affidavit. Jody Meader then was arrested in October, two days before the break was to occur.

Kenneth Meader, 48, is serving a 35-year federal sentence for cocaine distribution and firearms violations in connection with the 1995 abduction of his ex-girlfriend.

Jody Meader, 22, of Vienna, is charged with conspiracy and aiding and assisting an escape. The younger Meader has been released on bond and awaits trial. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison.

Kenneth Meader remains in jail as do others allegedly involved in the escape plot.

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