A 19-year-old Juneau woman was sentenced to serve one year in prison and four years probation after pleading guilty to dealing methamphetamine last month.
Judge Louis Menendez handed down the judgment for Nicole Jean Clayton on Tuesday in Juneau Superior Court.
Prosecutors with the district attorney’s office alleged Clayton sold .3, .4 and .5 grams of methamphetamine to police informants and an undercover Juneau Police Department officer on three occasions in October and November of last year, according to charging documents.
She was indicted by a grand jury in December on three counts of misconduct involving a controlled substance in the third degree. That’s a class ‘B’ felony offense that can carry up to 10 years in prison and a $100,000 fine. The presumptive sentencing range for first time offenders, such as Clayton, is one to three years.
In a plea agreement reached with prosecutors, Clayton pleaded guilty in February to the first count of the indictment, and the other two charges were dismissed.
The agreement also allows for what’s called a suspended imposition of sentencing (SIS), which means while this felony conviction can never be expunged from her criminal record, it can be “set aside” if she doesn’t violate her strict conditions of release.
Clayton’s attorney Whitney A. Power, with the Office of Public Advocacy, said Clayton was a good candidate for a SIS because of her young age, lack of violent criminal history and good prospects for rehabilitation.
“The agreement offers her a pretty good chance of rehabilitation,” Power said.
“Like Mr. Brower indicated on the record, a SIS in Alaska isn’t necessarily saying you’ve never been convicted of a felony, but it gives the opportunity for somebody who is otherwise looking at pretty serious charges, class ‘B’ felony, the chance to sort of reform their behavior and to make amends for it by successfully completing probation. I’m hopeful that Ms. Clayton will take this opportunity, the probation opportunity seriously, and that she’ll use it to change any behavior patterns that have led her to this point.”
District Attorney David Brower expressed doubts that Clayton had good prospects for rehabilitation based on her criminal history, but that a SIS provides her with a strong incentive not to re-offend.
“Whether she deserves it or not, it’s up to the court to decide whether she’s going to get it,” Brower said. “It’s not a case where she has an outstanding probability of rehabilitation. I think the idea is that this gives her the opportunity to turn her life around.”
Menendez told Clayton that in some respects, a SIS is a “double-edged sword” that some people view as harsher than a straight sentencing because it subjects a defendant to additional penalties if he or she violates probation. Also, the control the state has over her for those four years will be extreme.
Clayton responded by saying, “I just really want the opportunity to try to prove to myself and everybody else that I can make it.”
Menendez told Clayton if she does violate her conditions of release and loses the SIS, she will be back in court facing a class ‘B’ felony conviction and jail time.
“If in fact she violates conditions of probation through this period of four years, she comes back to court a convicted class ‘B’ felon,” he said. “There will be no trial, no adjudication. She’ll already be convicted and we’re just going to go straight into issues of sentencing.”
• Contact reporter Emily Russo Miller at 523-2263 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.