Judge: 'On the fence'

Sentencing for convicted meth dealer delayed

Stuck between a report recommending probation and the usual stance of sending drug dealers to prison, Judge Michael O'Hara continued a sentencing hearing Tuesday for a Craig woman convicted of child abuse and distributing methamphetamine.

The 14th Jud-icial District chief judge issued the delay so alternative options could be researched.

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In March, a jury convicted Sherry Nelson of distribution of a controlled substance, possession of a controlled substance -- felonies -- and no injury child abuse -- a misdemeanor. The latter conviction stemmed from Nelson selling narcotics near her child.

A pre-sentencing report recommended Nelson be sentenced to intensive supervised probation, in part because she had no previous felony convictions.

However, District Attorney Bonnie Roesink disagreed with the recommendation and asked the court to sentence Nelson to prison time, a common practice for defendants convicted of selling methamphetamine.

Nelson sold meth for profit, Roesink said, and is not addicted to the drug.

"This community has sent a message to us loud and clear ... meth dealers have to go to prison," the district attorney said. She added dealers who sell for profit should "go to prison whether it's their first time, second time or whatever it is.

"I think it makes it even worse that her child was there when she sold (meth)."

O'Hara said he was torn between adhering to the pre-sentencing report or sentencing Nelson, who has two children, to prison. Nelson's attorney, Kristopher Hammond, of Steamboat Springs, asked the court for probation.

"I am on the fence here," O'Hara said.

As an alternative option, he recommended Nelson undergo a Corrective Alternative Placement Services screening Wednesday, May 16, to see if she qualifies for the community corrections program. A community corrections board reviews cases each month, and if defendants meet certain criteria, they are admitted into the program, CAPS director Cindy Talkington said.

O'Hara did not say which direction he was leaning toward.

"I don't know what's going to happen to you," he told the defendant.

Nelson is scheduled to appear again at 11 a.m. May 23 for a new sentencing date.

Joshua Roberts can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 210, or jroberts@craigdailypress.com.

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