Sentence: 30 years
Offense: Conspiracy to
manufacture and possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine;
possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine
Year sentenced: 1995
Age at sentencing: 29
Projected release date: Mar. 17, 2019
Nature of priors:
Barbara’s criminal record is closely tied to her addiction to methamphetamine. She was charged with three counts of second
degree possession of a controlled substance in 1987 and 1989 as a result of her
relationships with drug-dealing boyfriends. In 1989 and 1991, she stole a pair
of sneakers and cigarettes while high on meth and was charged with third degree
theft. In 1991, Barbara was charged with forgery after buying work clothes with
a lost credit card. She pled guilty to all charges.
Throughout her life, Barbara suffered
abuse at the hands of the men in her life. After her parents divorced, her mother’s new
boyfriend gave seven-year-old Barbara marijuana and let his friend molest her. A
string of relationships with abusive men followed and Barbara plunged deeper
into drug use.
1992 found Barbara
desperate. Addicted to meth since high
school, she was able to stay sober while pregnant. However, when Barbara had to quit work to care
for her daughter, the bills began piling up. She qualified for welfare
assistance and pawned her belongings but couldn’t make ends meet. When she was
unable to pay her living expenses, Barbara sought help from her husband, Richard,
a heroin addict who was in jail. Richard
insisted she sell methamphetamine for some of his friends—major manufacturers
at the time—and she eventually agreed.
For a few weeks, the girlfriend of one of the manufacturers delivered
the drugs to Barbara. Barbara’s husband told her where to drop them off. When Barbara earned enough to pay her bills, she
claims she ended her ties with the conspiracy.
Barbara’s husband, however, joined the conspiracy upon his release from
prison and became a major distributor.
Later that year, police learned
about the conspiracy from a confidential informant. A search of the residences
of Barbara’s six codefendants produced a laboratory, firearms, packaging
materials, scales, miscellaneous paperwork, $10,000 and a half-filled drum of
nitroethane, along with other chemicals used to make meth. Only 18 grams of
methamphetamine were actually discovered. At Barbara’s residence, however,
authorities found only small Ziploc baggies, scales, miscellaneous drug
paraphernalia and small trace quantities of a substance suspected to be methamphetamine.
Initially, Barbara was not
arrested with the other participants. It
was only after she refused to testify against the conspirators that she was
indicted—one full year later—based on the testimony of the leader’s girlfriend,
who had delivered drugs to Barbara, and the culpability of Barbara’s
husband. The government offered Barbara
a plea bargain of 10 years in exchange for her cooperation. Since she knew nothing about the conspiracy
beyond her husband’s participation, she instead opted for a jury trial, not
realizing the severity of the sentence awaiting her.
Barbara was held accountable for 108.9
kilograms of meth: 93 kilograms extrapolated from the nitroethane in the drum
and 15.9 kilograms that the government estimated the conspiracy distributed
between July and November 1992. Though
the government determined Barbara was a minor participant, her prior
convictions elevated her sentencing guideline range to 292 to 365 months. Barbara was sentenced to 360 months, or 30
years, in federal prison.
Barbara’s husband also received a
30-year sentence. The two conspiracy leaders were sentenced to life. The leader’s girlfriend who played “a key
role in the conspiracy” received a ten-year sentence. Two other participants were sentenced to eight
and five-year terms.
The severity of Barbara’s
sentence would later come into question.
In 1998, her prosecuting attorney was dismissed and, upon reviewing the
old cases, new prosecutor Frank Noonan offered a deal to Barbara: if she dropped her pending appeal, he would
reduce her sentence to the mandatory 10 years.
Unfortunately, it was too late for Barbara to withdraw the appeal.
A veritable life sentence,
combined with a lifetime of abuse and addiction, culminated in a deep
depression that caused Barbara to jump from a 40-foot prison building. Miraculously, she survived her near fatal
injuries and can walk again after numerous surgeries. Following her physical recovery, she committed
herself to recovering psychologically. Barbara
dealt with and overcame her mental health issues. She graduated from the Residential Drug Abuse
Program and was selected to be a program mentor after proving to be “an
excellent example for her peers.” Barbara was also chosen to participate in the
Choices program, where she speaks to teens about the dangers of drug abuse. Barbara recently graduated with highest honors
from courses in psychology and social work and sex and drug counseling and is
pursuing a degree in Biblical Studies from Ames Christian University.
Barbara’s daughter is now a
teenager. She lives with Barbara’s father and brother in California almost 200
miles from the prison where Barbara is incarcerated. Unless Barbara’s sentence
is reduced or the laws change, her daughter will be a grown woman by the time
her mother is released.