By Steve Elliott of Writer for Toke of the Town
An Oklahoma mother has been taken away from her four young children and her husband, and is now serving 10 years in prison for selling $31 worth of marijuana.
Patricia Marilyn Spottedcrow, 25, entered the Eddie Warrior Correctional Center in Taft, Okla., three days before Christmas, reports Ginnie Graham at NewsOK.
"I'm nervous ... because it's prison ... people I don't know," Spottedcrow said. "People said you don't get too comfortable here or you'll be here longer. Don't make too many friends. Come and do your time and get out."
"Never in a million years did I think I'd be here 10 years," she said.
"We were under the impression we would get probation," Spottedcrow said. "When I left for court, I just knew I was coming back home. It hit me like a ton of bricks. There were no goodbyes; they took me away right then. How do you tell your children you are going to prison? How do you prepare for this?"
?Spottedcrow and her mother, Delita Starr, 50, sold a dime bag of marijuana to a police informant at Starr's home in Kingfisher on December 31, 2009, according to court records.
Starr took care of the transaction and asked her nine-year-old grandson -- Spottedcrow's son -- for some dollar bills to make change for the $11 sale.
The same informant came back to weeks later and bought $20 worth of pot from Spottedcrow.
Both women were arrested for "drug distribution." An additional charge of possession of a "dangerous substance" in the presence of a minor was added, since Spottedcrow's children were in the home.
"It just seemed like easy money," said Spottedcrow, who said she's not a "drug user" but has smoked marijuana. "I thought we could get some extra money. I've lost everything because of it."
?Each of the women were offered plea deals of two years in prison, but because it was a first offense for both of them and the amount of pot was so small, they took their chances and entered a guilty plea before a judge without a prior sentencing agreement (bad idea).
Starr received a 30-year suspended sentence with no incarceration, but five years of drug and alcohol testing. Spottedcrow got 10 years in prison for distribution, and two years for possession, to run concurrently. She won't be up for parole until 2014.
The cases have been "blow out of proportion" by law enforcement, according to Starr, who criticized the stiffness of the sentences. "It shocked me and we cried for days," she said.
In addition, Starr was fined $8,600 and Spottedcrow $2,740.
?Former Kingfisher County Judge Susie Pritchett, who retired in December, claimed the women were conducting "an extensive operation" ($31 worth?) and included children in the business.
"It was a way of life for them," Judge Pritchett claimed.
"Considering these circumstances, I thought I was lenient," the judge said. "By not putting the grandmother in prison, she is able to help take care of the children."
Since Spottedcrow didn't seem apologetic enough about her marijuana use in the opinion of Department of Corrections officials, she was deemed a high risk of "re-offending" in a pre-sentencing "investigative report," which recommended substance abuse treatment while she was in prison.
"It does not appear the defendant is aware that a problem exists or that she needs to make changes in her current behavior," the report noted. "The defendant does not appear remorseful ... and she makes justifications for her actions."
Judge Pritchett, who admitted that on first drug offenses, sentences are usually suspended, said "We look at their attitude and other factors" when sentencing.
When Spottedcrow was taken to jail after being sentenced, she had marijuana in her jacket. She pleaded guilty to that additional charge on January 24 and was sentenced to two years in prison and fined nearly $1,300. That sentence will also run concurrent with her other convictions.
Spottedcrow has four children, ages 9, 4, 3 and 1, and said she is trying to keep her eight-year, common-law marriage intact.
"It's been really hard on my husband," she said. "I know a lot of things can happen, but he'll always have my back and be there."
Oklahoma's two women's prisons -- the maximum security Mabel Bassett Correctional Center in McLoud and minimum-security Eddie Warrior Correctional Center in Taft -- had 2,622 prisoners in 2010.
Of those, 48 percent are serving time for nonviolent drug offenses.