Couple accused of making meth to plead out before trial

A Juneau couple accused of cooking methamphetamine in their Kanat-A Street home have both cut deals with state prosecutors to avoid trial.

Benjamin James Parson, 36, changed his plea Wednesday in Juneau Superior, and Jennifer T. Hartsock, also 36, is scheduled to change her plea later this month.

Parson pleaded guilty to two felony counts for attempting to manufacture the drug and for purchasing illegal amounts of cold medicine.

The plea deal calls for Parson to serve six years in jail with four years suspended for the first count, and a year in jail with all time suspended for the latter count, plus five years probation. In exchange for his plea, prosecutors agreed to dismiss the remaining counts against him.

Judge Louis Menendez will decide whether to accept the deal during an upcoming sentencing hearing, scheduled to take place in August.

Information regarding Hartsock’s plea deal will be disclosed during her ‘change of plea’ hearing, set for July 29 with Menendez.

Parson and Hartsock were arrested after Alaska State Troopers in Juneau executed a search warrant at their home in December and discovered six “one-pot” meth labs, prosecutors say. “One-pot” labs are a simplistic way of cooking meth, usually by using a two-liter plastic soda bottle, cold medicine and other household materials.

The Tlingit-Haida Regional Housing Authority, which owns the duplex where Parson and Hartsock lived, alerted the troopers to the suspicious drug activity which initiated the criminal investigation, District Attorney James Scott said Wednesday. The Housing Authority has since spent thousands of dollars cleaning the home, which was contained by traces of meth. The apartment was branded as an “illegal drug manufacturing site” by the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation.

Scott said troopers also obtained video surveillance of the Parson and Hartsock purchasing double the legal amount of pseudoephedrine at various Juneau pharmacies. State statute only allows people to purchase under six grams of the cold medicine over the counter within 30 days.

The defense had argued in pretrial litigation that law enforcement did not have a warrant when seizing log-records of cold medicine purchases maintained by local pharmacies, making the search illegal since it violated privacy rights under the state and federal constitutions. Prosecutors had pushed back arguing no warrant was needed and there was no right to privacy in the logs.

That motion is now considered moot since the case is being resolved before the judge ruled on the matter.

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

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