A 30-year-old man was sentenced Wednesday to seven years in prison with three years suspended for arranging to bring a “hefty amount” of heroin and other illegal drugs into Juneau last year.
Judge Philip Pallenberg said there was “little doubt” in his mind that Orion Seal planned on selling at least some of the drugs once they got into the capital city, despite the defense argument that it was for personal use and for fellow opiate addicts.
“This is not just a possession-level crime,” Pallenberg said during the sentencing hearing in Juneau Superior Court.
Assistant District Attorney Angie Kemp said Seal “orchestrated the transportation” of 60 grams of heroin, hashish, oxycodone pills and other prescription medication from Seattle to Juneau via drug courier. The courier, a 24-year-old Juneau resident who was pregnant at the time, Katrina Costello, was intercepted at the airport on April, 10 2013, and arrested. Seal was waiting in his car to pick up Costello near the airport and was also arrested.
“It’s not a small quantity of heroin she brought up,” Assistant District Attorney Angie Kemp said of Costello, who already pleaded guilty to a felony drug offense and is serving two years in prison.
Defense attorney Natasha Norris said she could not dispute 60 grams was “not a small amount” of heroin. But she said she doubted whether prosecutors could prove at trial that Seal was planning on selling the drugs to people in Juneau. She said Seal was a drug addict and was trying to access drugs for himself since he had recently moved from Anchorage to Juneau. Seal promised Costello she could have some of the drugs as payment for importing them to Juneau, and he promised to provide drugs to another purported addict as well, Norris said.
“That’s not the same thing as being a drug king pin and selling drugs throughout the city of Juneau,” Norris said, adding her client was motivated by addiction and not finances. “He was sick from addiction and he wanted access to those drugs.”
There were no controlled drug buys set up by police in the case. The Juneau Police Department was alerted to the crime from a tip — a woman whom Seal unsuccessfully recruited to carry the drugs to Juneau informed police. JPD had an undercover police informant buy the plane ticket for Costello per Seal’s instructions. The informant said he wanted heroin as payment for buying the tickets, and Seal promised he would “plug you up hella fat when she gets back bro,” according to court documents.
Prosecutors originally charged Seal with two drug-related felonies and he took a plea deal that dropped one of them in exchange for a guilty plea. Because he has a prior felony conviction for theft, he was faced with four to seven years in jail.
Prosecutors recommended the minimum time to serve, four years, a request that went unopposed by the defense and that the judge granted. The judge also tacked on four years probation, a compromise between the state which wanted five years and the defense who wanted three years.
Judge Pallenberg said Wednesday that no one knows exactly what Seal was planning on doing with what he described as a “hefty” amount of heroin, but said Seal was “clearly” planning on delivering at least some of it, based on text messages and the amount of drugs involved.
During allocution, Seal apologized and said he has taken steps to better himself while incarcerated.
“I just wanted to apologize to the courts and to the city of Juneau,” he said. “I do accept responsibility for my actions, and that’s not just because I got caught. I’ve had enough time to sit the last 17 months I’ve been incarcerated, to sit and reflect on what I’ve done, and everybody it’s affected.”