His playing days long behind him, the perpetual twinkle in his eye extinguished, a handcuffed, sullen, and bloated Kevin Stevens walked slowly into a courtroom at the Moakley Courthouse Tuesday and entered a not guilty plea to two federal drug offenses.
Stevens, the 51-year-old former NHL standout from Pembroke, spent the previous five nights in jail on oxycodone charges and would have been released from custody immediately after entering his plea. However, last week’s charges violated probation terms of a May 2015 arrest in Plymouth County for driving with a suspended license, and he departed the courthouse in the custody of local police, and was not released from custody on the local charges until late afternoon.
Stevens, arrested last Thursday and charged with possessing oxycodone and the intent to distribute, had his federal case continued to June 21 in what will be an initial status conference before Magistrate Judge Judith G. Dein, who also presided over Tuesday’s detention hearing.
Stevens was not required to post bail, but agreed to a series of other conditions, including not to gamble or visit a casino. He also agreed to participate in a court-approved mental health program and undergo a substance abuse evaluation.
According to Stevens’s attorney, Paul Kelly, the former Bruin has battled a 20-plus-year addiction to painkillers, including Percocet, Vicadin, and various opioids. All of Stevens’s arrests, said Kelly, stem from his protracted substance abuse triggered by a horrific on-ice injury in May 1993 when he collided with the Islanders’ Rich Pilon and fell face-first to the ice, fracturing his nose and many facial bones.
“He has beaten the opioid addiction a couple of times,’’ Kelly noted prior to Tuesday’s hearing. “He’s done a couple of stints in rehab through the NHL drug treatment program, which is all very hush-hush and confidential. But the NHL and NHLPA stepped in, and he has done a couple of stints. But the problem is he struggles with pain.
‘’Maybe a year or 18 months ago, he was in a car accident and he broke a couple of vertebra in his neck and upper back and again he was just in incredible pain. And again, they put him on Oxycontin, or one of these painkillers, and of course for a guy who has been fighting an addiction to these things, it immediately just sucks him right back in.’’
Last Thursday, federal authorities arrested both Stevens and Christopher Alonardo of Medford, and charged them with identical oxycodone violations occurring over a number of months dating back to August of last year.
According to Kelly, Stevens when arrested was in possession of a relatively small amount of oxycodone, what the attorney believed to be a total of 100 pills. Kelly, a former federal prosecutor, said the federal authorities typically do not pursue cases involving such small amounts.
“What is interesting is that normally in drug cases the US Attorney’s office has something called ‘declination’ limits,’’ said Kelly. “They don’t touch cases, they decline them, unless they are of sufficient volume of narcotics. They have a cutoff for marijuana, and they have a cutoff for cocaine and heroin and Oxycontin . . . and this appears to fall well below their normal declination limits.
“Whether they decided to take it [because] Kevin has some notoriety to his name, and celebrity, or whether there is something else they have that is looming in the background here is not clear. But it is unusual that the feds are stepping into a case of this nature.’’
US Attorney Tim Moran declined comment on the case as he exited the courtroom.
The proceedings took place with fewer than 10 people in the gallery, including Stevens’s mother, Patricia Stevens, and his sister, Kelli Wilson.
Patricia Stevens sobbed, her daughter’s arm across her shoulders, when her son entered and exited the courtroom, hands cuffed behind his back. Mother and son did not communicate, other than to make brief eye contact when the towering former All-Star winger, once the pride of Silver Lake High School and Boston College, exited the proceedings.
For the previous five nights, Stevens was held at the Wyatt Detention Facility in Central Falls, R.I.
According to Kelly, Stevens, who is divorced from his first wife, does not have a criminal record, despite a number of arrests, including his brief incarceration after being arrested in Collinsville, Ill., while a member of the Rangers in January 2000.
Stevens, then 35, was arrested in a hotel room early on a Sunday morning, charged with soliciting a prostitute and in possession of drug paraphernalia.
Kelly maintains that Stevens spiraled into the addiction following the well-chronicled on-ice injury May 14, 1993 when he collided with Pilon.
Nearly a quarter-century later, Stevens is still attempting to pick up the pieces. His weight hovering around 300 pounds, he faces the challenge, by Kelly’s description, of overcoming severe drug dependency.
Once known for the No. 25 on his back, Stevens is now Case No. CR-16:10131, the United States vs. Kevin Stevens.
Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeKPD.