Courier staff writer
ALAMOSA — Pamela Lynne Richardson thought she could make some easy money when she sold prescription opiates to an undercover law enforcement agent.
But 12th Judicial District Judge Michael Gonzales took issue with that assumption, and he used her sentence on a related charge to remind the community that she was wrong.
“The message to you and others who might think it’s an easy $500 is: It isn’t,” he said April 11, before he ordered her to serve 90 days in the county jail.
Richardson previously pleaded guilty to a Class 3 felony of distributing a Schedule II controlled substance, which normally carries a presumptive sentence of four to 16 years in state prison. But in exchange for the 52-year-old Manassa woman’s plea, the district attorney’s office recommended a three-year deferred sentence under supervised probation.
The judge, who went on to strongly condemn Richardson for her behavior, said he doesn’t like deferred sentences at all. But he added that he could see no reason not to grant one in her case, based on the prosecution’s offer.
Deputy District Attorney Lara Reincke did not make that offer, and she voiced concerns about moving forward with the recommendation in light of recent drug test results.
According to Reincke, Richardson tested positive for THC, an active ingredient in marijuana. (Defense attorney William Weatherford said his client indicated that family members gave her “herbal remedies,” which looked like small pieces of candy.)
Judge Gonzales told Reincke that her office knew what it was signing, despite strong objections from Alamosa Police Capt. Robert Jackson and other law enforcement agents.
“This is the deal your office made; this is the deal I’m going to hold your office to,” he said.
Authorities arrested Richardson and 14 other suspects last October, following a multi-agency investigation into an alleged drug ring that reached from Conejos County to Salida and Cañon City.
In Richardson’s case, she sold hundreds of oxycodone and Percocet pills to an undercover Colorado Bureau of Investigation agent between last July and September for an estimated grand total of $2,700.
Judge Gonzales said he’s particularly troubled by her case because it involves so many illegal sales of narcotics.
“In my mind, this isn’t just about selling a few pills here and there,” he said.
The drugs could have wound up in someone else’s hands, he said, and he questioned whether they might have.
“What’s to say that you didn’t (sell drugs) four other times with others?”
That’s especially concerning, he said, because the types of drugs she sold are the types of drugs that end up in the Valley’s schools.
Just recently, he said, a Costilla County student at one of those schools appeared in his court, following struggles with substance abuse.
Other kids are snorting, injecting and abusing drugs in ways that are unimaginable to him, he said.
“They’re doing it, and you are the type of person who is making it possible.”
There are many other factors to explain why people are so upset about the plea agreement in her case, he said.
“I too am up in arms about that type of behavior,” he added.
Weatherford said his client has shown remorse for her actions, and understands the seriousness of what she did.
Richardson, meanwhile, apologized to every law enforcement officer who was involved in the sting operations.
“I thank the Lord that it was the undercover agent that got it instead of anybody else,” she said.
As she moves on with her life, Richardson said she still has to live with her actions.
“I have to look at people every day, and I know they look differently at me,” she said.
Richardson has no prior criminal history, and the court gave her strong incentives to avoid any future run-ins with the law.
Judge Gonzales warned her that she will go to prison if she violates the terms of her deferred sentence.
“If you think this is a joke; if you think this is a game … rest assured, I am going to lock you up,” he said.
Any violations, including drug and alcohol use, would also cost her $5,000 on top of any mandated court fees and costs.
In light of her recent drug test results, the judge warned her that there will be consequences if she tests positive for any unauthorized controlled substances.
“If there are, plan on packing your bags for somewhere else,” he said.
The court ultimately remanded her to the custody of the sheriff’s office to begin her jail sentence; she received credit for four days served.
Once she’s released, Richardson will be required to perform 75 hours of useful public service, and to complete evaluations for substance abuse and mental health-related problems.