Because of $31 in marijuana sales, Patricia Marilyn Spottedcrow is now serving 10 years in prison, has been taken away from her four young children and husband, and has ended her work in nursing homes. This is part of Oklahoma Watch, an independent and investigative reporting project.
By Ginnie Graham | Published in Tulsa World
Because of $31 in marijuana sales, Patricia Marilyn Spottedcrow is now serving 10 years in prison, has been taken away from her four young children and husband, and has ended her work in nursing homes.
Three days before Christmas, Spottedcrow, 25, entered the Eddie Warrior Correctional Center.
“I’m nervous … because it’s prison … people I don’t know,” she said.
“People said 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.”
On Dec. 31, 2009, Spottedcrow and her mother, Delita Starr, 50, sold a “dime bag” of marijuana to a police informant at Starr’s home in Kingfisher, court records state.
Starr handled the transaction and asked her 9-year-old grandson — Spottedcrow’s son — for some dollar bills to make change for the $11 sale.
Two weeks later, the same informant returned and bought $20 of marijuana from Spottedcrow.
The two women were arrested for drug distribution and because Spottedcrow’s children were in the home, an additional charge of possession of a dangerous substance in the presence of a minor was added.
“It just seemed like easy money,” said Spottedcrow, who says she is not a drug user but has smoked marijuana. “I thought we could get some extra money. I’ve lost everything because of it.”
The women were each offered plea deals of two years in prison. But because neither had prior convictions and the drug amounts were low, they gambled and entered a guilty plea before a judge with no prior sentencing agreement.
Starr received a 30-year suspended sentence with no incarceration, but five years of drug and alcohol assessments. Spottedcrow was sentenced to 10 years in prison for distribution and two years for possession, to run concurrently. She will be up for parole in 2014.
‘Cried for days’
Starr claims the cases have been “blown out of proportion” by lawmen and criticizes the sentences as stiff. “It shocked me and we cried for days,” she said. In addition, Starr was fined $8,600 and Spottedcrow $2,740.
“Never in a million years did I think I’d be here 10 years,” Spottedcrow said of prison.
“We were under the impression we would get probation. 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?”
Former Kingfisher County Judge Susie Pritchett, who retired in December, said the women were conducting “an extensive operation” and included children in the business.
“It was a way of life for them,” Pritchett said.
“Considering these circumstances, I thought it was lenient. By not putting the grandmother in prison, she is able to help take care of the children.”
A presentencing investigative report prepared by the Department of Corrections rated Spottedcrow’s risk of re-offending as “high” and recommended substance abuse treatment while incarcerated.
“It does not appear the defendant is aware that a problem exists or that she needs to make changes in her current behavior.”
Spottedcrow was unemployed and without a stable residence when arrested, the report states. The family lost their Oklahoma City home for not paying bills.
“When she needed money … this is the avenue she chose rather than finding legitimate employment,” the report states. “The defendant does not appear remorseful … and she makes justifications for her actions.”
‘Kids are involved’
Pritchett said on first drug offenses, sentences are usually suspended and may require treatment or random drug tests.
Only if there are other more serious circumstances is a first-time drug offender sent to prison, she said.
“When kids are involved, it’s different,” Pritchett said.
“This was a drug sale. When I look at someone in front of me, I’m thinking, ‘What is it going to take to rehabilitate this person?’ We look at their attitude and other factors.”
When Spottedcrow was taken to jail after her sentencing, she had marijuana in her jacket. She pleaded guilty to that additional charge Jan. 24 and was sentenced to two years in prison and fined nearly $1,300. That sentence also will run concurrent with her other conviction.
Spottedcrow has four children — ages 9, 4, 3 and 1 — and is determined to keep her 8-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.”
Her son is aware of what has happened, but the girls have been told their mother is away at college.
“I missed my daughter’s fourth birthday, and I’ll miss her fifth one too. My other daughter just started talking, and I’m not there to hear her,” Spottedcrow said.
“My baby woke up … and doesn’t know where her mommy is. This is the hardest thing to do, and know I can’t do anything about it. I just have to focus on myself and take it day-to-day and plan for going home. I will want to see my kids at some point. I’m trying to take this slow. I can’t get depressed about it.”
Oklahoma’s two prisons for women — the maximum-security Mabel Bassett in McLoud and minimum-security Eddie Warrior in Taft — housed 2,622 prisoners last year.
Of those, 48 percent are serving time for nonviolent drug offenses and 22 percent for other nonviolent offenses such as embezzlement and forgery.
Of the 1,393 women received by Oklahoma prisons last year, 78 percent were identified by DOC as minimal public safety threats.
Most nonviolent offenders are housed at Eddie Warrior, an open campus with a walking track and six dormitories.
‘I’m already changed’
Spottedcrow knows she will need to find a new job skill because her work in the health field won’t be there because of her incarceration. She would like to open a boutique.
“Even though this seems like the worst thing … I’ve been blessed along the way,” she said. “It could have been worse. I’m happy my kids are safe and, ultimately, I’m safe. I’m thankful I still have a family.”
In a year, Spottedcrow will have a review and hopes to shorten her time in prison.
“I’m already changed,” she said. “This is a real eye-opener. I’m going to get out of here, be with my kids and live my life.”