Repeat offender asks to remain in custody

Posted: Monday, August 02, 2010

Jennifer Blankenship's life was relived in one day. It happened at 9:15 a.m. Thursday in courtroom C, before Juneau Superior Court Judge Patricia A. Collins. Blankenship's request was different than most who appear in court, however. She wanted to remain in custody.

Collins read Blankenships' past history. One instance was when Blankenship was unconscious at the Thane Campground with a needle in her arm. In another, Blankenship was passed out on drugs while on a state ferry near Sitka. A prison video showed her being assaulted over a game of Scrabble by a past lover.

Defense attorney Natasha Norris intimated that Blankenship was previously used as a sexual toy by men, who in turn introduced her to a life of drugs and abuse at an age when she should have been focussed on being a middle school student. That wasn't the only childhood she missed, however.

Blankenship said she has four children whose lives she cast aside due to her drug dependency.

Norris said it was painful to consider the life Blankenship must have had, and frustrating to see someone like her, with her big smile and big heart, make the bad choices she does.

At a prior bail hearing, Judge Collins told Blankenship's father not to pay the bail because Blankenship asked to remain in prison. Standing before Collins once again, Blankenship asked Thursday to be kept in jail. Perhaps from prison she can get the help and support needed to battle a 17-year drug addiction, Blankenship said, because she hasn't been able to do it alone.

Blankenship stood in court wearing a bright orange jumpsuit, signifying she was to remain segregated from other prisoners. Seated away from her were other prisoners in yellow jumpsuits with "Prisoner" stamped on their backs. In the back, a court officer was waiting with tree-trunk arms folded across a barrel chest, sporting a handgun, cuffs and police baton.

That was the summary of Jennifer Blankenship's life, as read by Collins, Norris, and prosecutor Angie Kemp.

Blankenship has had at least five class A Misdemeanor convictions. She was on probation Jan. 10, when she rode with her abusive girlfriend, Brenda Gallant, and driver Artie Hayes to the Gastineau Humane Society for a drug deal with Melanie Long and Adeline Strong. Gallant decided to rob Long and Strong, according to court records, as Blankenship was returning from the bathroom.

Blankenship was charged with aiding and abetting for her role, though police reports and a letter from one of the victims both reported that Blankenship had little to do in the actual robbery. Hayes was not charged.

Collins called Blankenship's relationship Gallant "incredibly dysfunctional and, quite frankly, dangerous."

Judge Collins stated she had a duty to fulfill, but that she wasn't ready to give up on Blankenship just yet.

The charges against Blankenship were reduced, though she'll be required to serve 30 months, with a recommendation she be placed in Hiland Mountain Correctional Center in Eagle River. The facility for women features one of the best residential substance abuse treatment programs in the state.

Blankenship read her own hand-written note before sentencing.

"I am angry with myself for being where the robbery occurred," she said. "I did nothing to stop it. I have been in jail 201 days today. ... It has been hard at times but I have hope. ... I need a lot of help ... I don't want my father or grandmother to have to baby-sit me 24/7. I need to be in jail. I want to survive this. ... I want to heal, I am tired of hurting."

• Contact Klas Stolpe at klas.stolpe@juneauempire.com.



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