Before being sentenced on charges of dealing methamphetamine, Carolyn McGee was described by her defense Wednesday as an addict, her life spinning out of control following the death of her young son, also a meth addict.
“I just don’t think you wake up one morning and decide you are going to become a meth addict,” said Dina Cale, who represented McGee from the Office of Public Advocacy. “I think there was a triggering effect. I think the death of her son contributed to that.”
McGee, a Kenai resident, sobbed briefly while the court recounted the events that lead to the death of her son, Brendan. Then 23, her son was shot in the head by Lyle Ludvick with a shotgun over a $500 payment for a gun. Ludvick is serving the remainder of a seven-year sentence after pleading guilty to a manslaughter charge in January of 2012.
Judge Carl Bauman on Wednesday gave McGee a 60 month sentence with 50 months suspended for pleading guilty to two counts of third degree misconduct involving a controlled substance, both Class B felonies. One charge stemmed from her distribution of 3.9 grams of meth and another that she possessed the drug within 500 feet of a school. The sentencing was the result of a plea deal that stipulated her other seven felony charges be dropped.
McGee — who, with credit for time served, is close to completing her 10-month jail sentence — made no comments to the court, only speaking to say the name of her son when Bauman asked about the death.
“With no offense, it is possible that the explanation that has been provided by you through your counsel that these events are in reaction, triggered by the tragic death of your son, it is possible that is the case,” Bauman said. “ ... It is also possible that you have been involved in dealing drugs for an extended period of time and that you are good at it, for the most part.”
Bauman said that while McGee might have been experienced in dealing meth, she was “not so wise” considering the activity’s proximity to a school.
Before handing down the sentence, the judge wrestled with whether or not the sentence would deter McGee from re-offending, concluding that the life of a meth dealer is hard to escape, but that he would hope the sentence would be enough to keep the mother clean. He also debated whether or not the sentence would deter others from making the same choice.
“I don’t see that it is a strong statement to others contemplating making the kind of money that apparently can be made in dealing meth, along with the lifestyle that may or may not go with it,” he said.
Ben Jaffa, an assistant district attorney, said the sentencing came about as a result of extensive investigation involving a confidential informant making drug purchases from a number of individuals, including McGee.
Jaffa agreed the sentence might appear lenient, but added that McGee will have the charge “over her head” for more than four more years if she were to reoffend. Jaffa also argued that she had no prior felony convictions — she has several misdemeanor charges involving drugs and theft — and she cooperated with the investigation.
“The fact that there is so much suspended time, certainly ... going back to jail with this agreement put on the record is probably not going to be the greatest situation for her,” he said.
With that in mind, Jaffa said the primary sentencing goal should be rehabilitation, however difficult it may be.
“Either she is a late bloomer in terms of becoming a drug user, or, she has had a long history of drug use and it is finally catching up with her in terms of legal consequences,” he said. “Whichever the case may be, at 45 years old, I think it is going to be somewhat difficult for her to turn the corner, to make the changes needed to keep her out of jail and away from drugs.”
Cale said the sentence would be enough to deter her client, and that the deal’s required treatment and evaluation will help keep McGee out of trouble.
“Right now she needs to take care of herself, and hopefully through the probation conditions and the time over her head she sees fit to finally put herself before her children and make sure she stays on the straight and narrow so that she can be a better example to them,” Cale said.
Brian Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.