Good intentions land Waterford woman in jail

A Waterford woman was sentenced Wednesday to four months in the Washington County Jail for selling heroin to a friend who was acting as a confidential informant.

Toni A. Berry, 38, of 14735 Waterford Road, pleaded guilty in December to a fifth-degree felony count of drug trafficking.

Berry had acquired the drugs thinking she was helping a friend in trouble, said her attorney, Ray Smith.

“She thought he might be having withdrawal and found some drugs to help him. She thought she was helping a friend and little did she know he was a (confidential informant),” said Smith.

Washington County Prosecutor Jim Schneider, who prepared the case, said the possibility that the informant had feigned sickness was never mentioned to him during his preparation of the case.

Those actions could be construed as entrapment, which is a legal defense, but the defense never raised such an argument in the case, said Schneider.

Berry’s fiance, Sam Wilcoxen, questioned the severity of the sentence given Berry’s lack of criminal history and effort in overcoming her own drug addiction.

“It seems like a lot of people in and out of the court are repeat offenders and are given a slap on the wrist. My fiancee has a clean record and she had entered rehab on her own. Four months just seemed awfully stiff to me,” he said.

Besides a few minor traffic violations, Berry has no prior criminal history.

The confidential informant in the case has a long history of charges but has avoided any criminal punishment for the most part, said Wilcoxen.

“They let the big fish go to catch a bunch of little fish,” he said. “In my eyes, there needs to be some more accountability on getting the serious criminals off the street.”

Berry was originally charged with two fourth-degree felony drug trafficking charges for selling the man heroin on July 16 and Aug. 28, 2012.

One charge was dismissed and the other was reduced to a fifth-degree felony by removing language that stipulated the transaction had taken place within 1,000 feet of Fort Frye High School, said Washington County Assistant Prosecutor Kevin Rings.

Neither Rings nor Smith made a sentencing recommendation. However, Smith noted that Berry has been having success with her treatments at a local Suboxone clinic. Smith said the jail allows inmates to continue Suboxone treatment in some “special circumstances.”

“I would hope this would be a special case where they would allow Suboxone treatment while in jail,” he said.

The treatment is for Berry’s addition to prescription pain medications, said Wilcoxen. She has never used heroin, he said.

In addition to the Suboxone treatments and counseling at L&P Services, which Berry has been attending on her own, Washington County Common Pleas Court Judge Ed Lane ordered a variety of other treatment and counseling programs for Berry.

While Lane ordered a 120-day jail sentence, it is possible Berry will spend very little time in the Washington County Jail before being transferred to a drug treatment program at the Eastern Ohio Correction Center, he said.

“If you do get accepted to that program, I’ll let you out of the jail immediately so you can complete that program,” he said.

The center offers a comprehensive approach for treating drug addicts, said Lane.

“What I like about programs like the EOCC…it’s a broader approach. They don’t only work on addiction. They work on other things,” he said.

The program also includes mental health counseling and job training components, he said.

Lane also asked Berry if she had children. Berry answered that she had three, and Lane ordered her to take a parenting program offered locally through L&P Services.

“Your children are probably very much affected by your drug use,” he said.

The program will help Berry understand how her drug addiction has affected her children and how to work toward reversing those consequences, he said.

Berry will also be required to undergo evaluation for the court’s “Thinking For A Change” program upon her completion of the EOCC program and will be subject to five years of community control, ordered Lane.