A local woman who was caught internally transporting about 39 grams of heroin worth about $39,000 to Juneau last year was sentenced Thursday in Juneau Superior Court.
Madelyn Brooks, 22, was sentenced to seven years in prison with six years suspended, leaving one year to serve.
In accordance with a plea agreement, however, that year to serve was converted into credit for time already spent at a rehabilitation center. That means there was no jail sentence.
Defense attorney Julie Willoughby hailed her client as one of the few success stories and said Brooks kicked her 2-gram a day habit at a rehab center called A Life Worth Living in Fort Collins, Colo. Brooks completed that program and now works and lives there, Willoughby told the judge.
“I’d like to say that actions speak louder than words,” Willoughby said. “We’re talking about someone who followed-up.”
According to charging documents, local and federal law enforcement intercepted Brooks Valentine’s Day 2011 at the Juneau International Airport on suspicion of transporting heroin. She was flying back to Juneau from Portland.
A Juneau Police Department detective, who obtained a search warrant, seized Brooks’ backpack and iPhone. He found a burnt tinfoil with residue used to smoke drugs.
A police K-9 then showed interest in a roll of electrical tape in her backbag, which led investigators to believe she was smuggling drugs internally. She was taken to Bartlett Regional Hospital for an X-ray to see if there were any objects inside her.
Brooks then admitted she was carrying heroin inside her body, and agreed to remove the heroin on her own.
She made multiple attempts to do so, but was not successful. Brooks was transported to X-ray by emergency room staff and they observed a round object in her pelvic area. It was extracted via a medical procedure and found to be a ball of electrical tape containing heroin.
Brooks admitted to police that she probably smoked about two grams of heroin a day, and that the trip was a dry drop wherein she picked up heroin in Portland. She said she’s done it several times before. The heroin usually costs between $1,000 and $1,500 per ounce, and is cut up into .2 gram quantities, which is sold for about $140.
She was indicted by a grand jury a few days later on two counts of second-degree drug misconduct, a class ‘A’ felony, for knowingly possessing with the intent to deliver or manufacture heroin and oxycodone. The oxycodone charge stems from a Nov. 23, 2010 arrest.
Brooks pleaded guilty in September to a reduced charge of attempted second-degree drug misconduct, a felony. She admitted to two sentencing aggravators for importing drugs and most serious conduct.
The oxycodone charge was dismissed.
On Thursday, Assistant District Attorney Angie Kemp said the crime was serious and Brooks is catching a break by avoiding several years in prison through the plea agreement.
“But what she needs to remember is that she has a lot of jail time hanging over her head, and it’s going to be a lifelong battle for her,” Kemp said.
Kemp said the agreement was appropriate in light of the fact that it was Brook’s first felony conviction, her young age and her ability to complete the rehab program.
Brooks will be required to be on strict supervised probation for five years and to pay restitution for the $1,580 medical bill and $480 in drug buy money in the oxycodone case.
Judge Philip Pallenberg told Brooks, who declined to address the court, that he hopes she continues on the path she’s on.
“Everybody who comes into this court with multiple felony convictions and repeated brushes with the law and convictions for drug involvement was once a young person getting in trouble for the first time,” he warned. “ “ ... And each of those people had an opportunity to turn from that path and they chose not to or weren’t able to take advantage of the opportunity to turn to a better path. You’ve got that opportunity and you’re making that turn and I hope it continues.”
Pallenberg told Brooks he sentenced a woman earlier in the week to serve seven years in prison for dealing cocaine, oxycodone and other drugs. And that was for drugs with much smaller quantities than what Brooks was involved in, Pallenberg noted.
The only difference was that woman had prior felony convictions, and Brooks did not.
“At one time she was in the place where you are now, being sentenced on her first felony,” he said. “I hope that you’re not in the place later on where she is now.”
Pallenberg said he could not ignore the seriousness of the crime. He said he could not just consider Brooks’ rehabilitation when accepting the sentence, but what would deter other people from doing the same thing and to address community condemnation.
“Six years of suspended time is a lot of suspended time,” he said. “If things don’t work out and you relapse and there are significant probation violations, there’s still a potential that you’d do a lot of prison time. So while the jail sentence of time to serve is not long in the context of seriousness of the offense, the amount of suspended time is, and I’m satisfied that that meets the goals of deterrence and community condemnation.”
• Contact reporter Emily Russo Miller at 523-2263 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.