Mom who sold $31 in pot seeks reduction to 12-year sentence
BY GINNIE GRAHAM World Staff Writer
Tuesday, August 30, 2011
5/30/12 at 7:28 AM
Read the filings for
sentence modification for
Patricia Spottedcrow and
her mother, Delita Starr, in Kingfisher
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A Kingfisher County woman profiled in a Tulsa World story earlier this year examining the state's high female incarceration rate has a hearing for a sentence modification set for Oct. 6.
Patricia M. Spottedcrow, 26, received a 12-year prison sentence last October for selling a total of $31 in marijuana to a police informant in December 2009 and January 2010. Her mother, Delita Starr, 51, was also charged.
In blind guilty pleas before a judge, Spottedcrow received prison time, and her mother received a 30-year suspended sentence. Neither had prior criminal convictions.
Oklahoma City attorney Josh Welch said he has requested Spottedcrow be present to speak directly to the judge.
"Patricia wants to let the judge know what she has learned and been through," Welch said. "She wants him to know she's remorseful, accepts responsibility and it will not happen again. She doesn't want a free pass or makes excuses for her conduct.
"With all things said, we disagree with the 12-year sentence, with it being excessive for this case."
Spottedcrow was featured in a Tulsa World article on Feb. 20, published in media across the state through the nonprofit journalism group Oklahoma Watch.
The judge, who is now retired, said in a previous interview that Spottedcrow's decade-long sentence was imposed because her four young children were in the home at the time of the drug buys. She said first-time offenders usually do not go to prison and alternatives including treatment are typically sought.
When Spottedcrow was booked into the jail after sentencing, some marijuana was found in a jacket she was wearing. She pleaded guilty to a drug possession charge and was given a two-year sentence to run concurrent with her other sentence.
The judge said she gave Starr a suspended sentence so she could care for Spottedcrow's children, who are now 10, 5, 3 and 2.
In the filing, Starr reportedly earns about $800 a month from her job at a truck stop earning $8 an hour. Expenses for the children are a minimum of $500 for food, clothes, diapers and medicine, and $500 for utilities, water and home maintenance. She cannot drive because her license was revoked in her sentencing.
Starr owes $8,091 in court fees.
"It's been very, very difficult on her," Welch said. "Their living conditions are not ideal. She calls weekly asking explaining what's going on and asking when Patricia could come home. They are tough questions to answer. When judges make these decisions, there is collateral fallout."
Spottedcrow, who owes $4,026 in court costs, wrote a letter to the judge apologizing for her actions.
"This place has had a profound effect on me mentally," she wrote. "I was not thinking about how my actions would affect my children's lives or the people around me ... I made a mistake and never thought what the repercussions would be. I am missing precious time away from my children, that I can never get back. What I know now is nothing is worth the cost of my children suffering."
While in prison, Spottedcrow has taken parenting classes, finished her GED and participates in a grief/loss recovery program, a behavior course, Alcoholics Anonymous/Narcotics Anonymous and a faith-based program. She is on the waiting list for some other programs and would like to go to college for a business degree, according to her court filing.
She would have to spend at least 50 percent of her sentence in prison before being eligible for parole.
"I am asking for a second chance at life, my chance to be a positive role model and a mother to my children," she wrote.
In response filed by prosecutors, they state the sentence is within the range of punishment allowed under the law and do not feel a modification is warranted.
Spottedcrow's case led to a groundswell of support through online petitions, donations to help her children and an Oklahoma City rally featuring Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips.
Welch said her case has attracted people for different reasons such as reform of drug laws, issues surrounding incarceration of women/mothers and excessive sentencing.
A prison reform bill was signed into law by Gov. Mary Fallin in May. It will increase the eligibility for offenders who can be considered for GPS monitoring and community sentencing, enforce a 30-day deadline for the governor to sign paroles for low-risk nonviolent offenders, and add criteria for Pardon and Parole Board members.
Welch said he is not sure any of the changes would have been a benefit to Spottedcrow or Starr.
"They have to be implemented, and judges and prosecutors must believe in them," Welch said. "This is a case screaming for help. The function of a judge is not just to punish people but to help people. That was lost in her case.
"It is time to change the mentality of judges that punishment is not always the best option. It's easy to step up to the podium and say, 'I'm tough on crime.' But it has consequences."
Original Print Headline: Mother in prison: 'I deserve a second chance'
Ginnie Graham 918-581-8376
Patricia Spottedcrow received a 12-year prison sentence for selling a small amount of marijuana to a police informant with her children present in Kingfisher. After her story was told in February, support for the mother of four has been generated through donations for her family, online petitions and a rally with The Flaming Lips' Wayne Coyne. ADAM WISNESKI / Tulsa World file
Patricia Spottedcrow puts her things away and greets other prisoners inside her dorm-style building at Dr. Eddie Warrior Correctional Center on the first day of her incarceration at the facility. ADAM WISNESKI / Tulsa World file