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Mom-to-be receives 3 years in prison

Posted: February 16, 2012 - 1:13am

Following a successful year in treatment, a pregnant 24-year-old woman from Haines was sentenced to serve three years in prison after she pleaded guilty to dealing oxycodone in Juneau two years ago.

Juneau Superior Court Judge Philip Pallenberg accepted a plea deal reached with prosecutors on Tuesday that sentenced Adeline Gayle Strong to six years with three suspended and three years probation, plus $680 in restitution for the drug buy money. The judge grappled with when Strong should report to jail — before or after her baby is born.

“I wish we weren’t here today two weeks before the birth of a little baby talking about Mom going to jail,” the judge said. “... I wish this crime hadn’t happened in 2010. It puts that baby in a place where his or her mom’s got to go to jail.”

Strong’s lawyer James E. Curtain with the Office of Public Advocacy asked for the sentence to be imposed two or three weeks after the delivery, so there is time for Strong to bond with her newborn child. Her baby’s due date is March 3.

“It’s a hard question, it really is,” Pallenberg pondered. “... Let’s say Mom goes to jail after the baby’s been born, then what do we do? Do we put it off another week so that Mom and baby can have a few days together? Then what are we doing? We’re putting the mom of a week-old baby in jail. Put it off two weeks? Then what are we doing? We’re putting the mom of a 2-week-old baby in jail, and that’s a terrible thought.”

In the end, Pallenberg decided to require Strong to report to jail immediately, by Wednesday evening at 8 p.m.

“The further we put off the reporting date, the further we put off the getting-out date,” he said. “There’s no good answer to that dilemma. I don’t think putting it off makes it better. ... The baby’s coming, I think we ought to get this sentence started.”

Strong was originally charged by a grand jury in May of 2010 for two counts of second-degree misconduct involving drugs, a class ‘A’ felony that can carry up to 20 years in prison.

Prosecutors alleged she sold a total of 1 1/2 pills of oxycodone across two separate occasions when she was living in Juneau.

Empire archives show Strong was one of four people arrested in a two-day period in an Oxycontin drug bust.

“Ms. Strong was one of the last cases, I think, of what we saw was a mass influx of oxy sales,” Assistant District Attorney Angie Kemp said in court.

She pleaded guilty in October of 2010 to a reduced charge of attempted second-degree misconduct involving drugs, a class ‘B’ felony that can carry up to 10 years in prison. That felony has presumptive sentencing range of one to three years, or two to four years, for first-time felony convictions.

Strong was released to her parents in Haines, and reported to a treatment facility in January of last year. She completed treatment this January.

Strong thanked the court for requiring her to attend a treatment facility, saying it turned her life around.

“It really was something that I didn’t want to do at first, but then after I got there I met people my age that wanted to be clean, that didn’t want to be on drugs. And after being there, I started to hear things in people that I wanted to have in my life,” she said. “And it really changed who I am — I know I can’t show it — but it really made me change the way I look at life.”

Both Curtain and Kemp acknowledged the fact completing treatment for addiction was a feat that they rarely see with opiate addicts.

“Your honor, I’ve had a number of these Oxycontin cases as well, and this is my first client that’s actually completed the program,” Curtain said. “ ... I’m very impressed by what Ms. Strong has done ... and what she’s done is she has taken a very strong addiction problem and addressed it. I’m not saying it’s over, I’m not saying it’s over by a long run. But she on her own has gone and started to address these problems, so I think that that speaks very well of her.”

Kemp agreed, saying, “She’s taken some steps that are rare for some of the offenders with opiate addiction, and the state is hopeful that she can do things to change her life.”

Pallenberg wished her well, but also said he wished the court would have ordered her to complete the prison sentence before she went for treatment. Completing treatment then doing jail isn’t the “ideal order” in which to do things, he said.

“It’s a little counterproductive for someone to do all that treatment then go to jail because I think really the treatment program is there to prepare someone to live a clean and sober life in a community,” he said. “You spend all these months in treatment then you go back to jail for a long time, a person can forget all the good things they learned in treatment before they get back to the community.”

Strong’s lawyer said she is currently in the process of applying to be on electronic monitoring, which is something the Department of Corrections decides, not the court.

Pallenberg also noted while a significant number of oxycodone drug busts were made in the same time frame that Strong was arrested, the trend continues to be a problem in the community.

“It’s a significant sentence, I hope it acts as a deterrent to other people,” he said.

• Contact reporter Emily Russo Miller at 523-2263 or at emily.miller@juneauempire.com.

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