Shannon Cooper sentenced on drug case

ALAMOSA — Although the case tying her to the Floyd Dale McBride murder was dismissed, Shannon Cooper, 35, was sentenced on Tuesday to 4 1/2 years in Community Corrections on a felony charge of introducing contraband (drugs) into the jail.

Cooper had also been charged with conspiracy in connection with the McBride case, but that case was dismissed as part of a plea agreement encompassing multiple cases involving Cooper. Assistant District Attorney Ashley McCuaig told the judge the conspiracy to commit murder case would have been difficult for the people to prove, and Lonnie Cooper, Shannon’s husband, took responsibility for causing McBride’s June 2016 death.

McCuaig recommended 12 years in the Department of Corrections on the felony introduction of contraband charge.

Shannon Cooper’s attorney David Lipka did not argue for a specific sentence but talked about her addiction and how he believed she was ready to make some changes in her life, and it would be good for her to be close to her family.

Through tears, Shannon Cooper also talked about her addiction and how she wanted to overcome it and have a better life.

District Judge Michael Gonzales sentenced Cooper to 4 1/2 years in Community Corrections. She has been in custody for 201 days and was given credit for that time. The judge told Cooper if she failed in Community Corrections, she would go to the Department of Corrections.

McCuaig said that although some of Shannon Cooper’s criminal history could be linked to her association with the wrong people such as Lonnie Cooper, Shannon Cooper had to take responsibility as well, and some of her criminal cases such as the one for which she was sentenced on Tuesday occurred when Lonnie Cooper wasn’t even in the picture.

McCuaig outlined Shannon Cooper’s criminal history: 2004, distribution in Arapahoe County; 2005, deferred judgment, possession, Garfield County; 2014, possession, Alamosa County; 20015 possession case dismissed; 2016, felony drug charges related to a raid at the house where she and Lonnie Cooper lived; 2016, conspiracy to commit murder, dismissed.

While Lonnie Cooper was in custody and Shannon Cooper was released on probation, she picked up two additional cases including the contraband case, taking drugs (which she said were for others in the jail who were going through withdrawal) into the jail in her underwear, and another drug case, which was an attempt to buy drugs inside the jail. That case was dismissed.

McCuaig said Cooper has already had the opportunity of probation and failed. She had received treatment but afterwards had tried to bring drugs into the jail. In doing so, she endangered the lives of others including jail staff, McCuaig said.

He added that the only sentence that would keep her from further harming the community would be one to the Department of Corrections.

Lipka said his client has had an unstable living situation from a young age and had suffered homelessness in addition to heavy drug use since she was young. He said Cooper has been successful on probation before and has taken responsibility for her actions.

He added that Cooper has people who love her and whom she loves including her 11- and 16-year-old daughters who are living with Shannon’s mother, and Shannon could also live there if she was granted probation. There are also job opportunities within walking distance of her mother’s home in Monte Vista, Lipka added.

He said Shannon Cooper has now been clean for some time, and he believed she was ready to end the drug cycles she has experienced for most of her life.

In speaking to the judge, Shannon Cooper said, “I do feel bad for who I have been most of my life. I have fought and I will continue to fight. I am not willing to give up.”

She said she has put herself in counseling and knows she needs more help.

“I want my kids to be able to have a chance with me. I want to become healthy again.”

She said since leaving home at age 11 she had relied on others to have a roof over her head and all the wrong things in life.

She added that she would like to become a drug and alcohol counselor to use her negative past for a positive future. She said she also wanted to go to schools “and tell them what a lie this life is.”

She added, “I want a better life. I want to wake up and just be safe. I don’t want to be rich, big fancy stuff. I want to be able to just be normal. I want to learn how to be close to my mom for the first time and my kids … I just want to have a chance.”

Judge Gonzales told Cooper, “You have a lot of healing to do. You have a lot of healing in pretty much every aspect of your life.”

He spoke to the drug addictions he sees in men and women like Cooper every day.

“Drugs and the addictions drugs bring are tearing this community apart,” he said. “Ninety-seven percent of what I see is just horrible, horrible.”

He said he is constantly seeing people losing their freedom and their families because of drugs, and they do not want to work hard enough to get them back.

Judge Gonzales said if Cooper’s children ages 7, 11 and 16 are not enough motivation for her to stay clean, “There’s absolutely no reason I can give you.”

He added, “You’ve got a lot to overcome, a lot to heal. You’ve got to realize that deep down inside there’s someone worthwhile.”

Judge Gonzales said Cooper needs to decide that her family, life, freedom and her children are more important than drugs. It would be hard work for the rest of her life, but she needed to do it for her family, for her children, the judge added, and he hoped it was not too late for her to save her relationship with her children.

“A parent is a parent 24 hours a day, seven days a week, every hour of your life, not when it’s convenient to you … There’s nothing like the love of a child, and you are missing out on all of that.”