Defendant asks judge for two-year sentence

Published 9:46 am Monday, August 24, 2009

It was an unusual plea — a plea judges don’t hear most of the time: A West Virginia woman told a Lawrence County Common Pleas judge Wednesday she needed at least two years in prison to help get her life straightened out and to ween herself from a drug addiction.

Melinda Weddington, 37, of Marmet, was sentenced to four years in prison for her previous guilty plea to charges of failure to comply with the order and signal of a police officer, receiving stolen property and possession of crack cocaine.

In sentencing Weddington, Judge D. Scott Bowling noted that in a pre-sentence investigation, staff at the Lawrence County Adult Probation Agency said Weddington had one of the most extensive criminal records they had ever seen.

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Assistant Lawrence County Prosecutor Jeff Smith said most of the charges against Weddington in the past have been for theft, running from the police and other like misdemeanors.

Weddington told Judge D. Scott Bowling she had had a turbulent childhood but “got her life together” for a while and was able to stay out of trouble. But then one of her children got hurt and life went downhill after that.

“I disregarded the law a lot,” she said. “I’m not trying to make excuses. I have regrets. I’m grateful I never hurt anybody. I’m asking for the two years to get my life together. When I first met my lawyer I told him I needed at least two years in prison. That’s a hard thing to admit to yourself. I wish the time (spent) in jail had been enough.” She said she knows there are programs in prison she can use to get clean. Weddington frequently looked back at her parents, children and other family members seated in the gallery and cried.

“I’m sorry Mom, I’m sorry,” she sobbed at one point.

Her attorney, Philip Heald, said he hoped the court would look favorably on a request for judicial release at some point, even if she is required to go to a community based correctional facility afterward.

Bowling said he would consider a request for judicial release after two years if she is admitted to a CBCF.

“You’re absolutely right, a lot of studies indicate individuals with a problem like yours need a significant amount of time (in prison). Your records indicate a serious problem you need to address,” Bowling said.

Also Wednesday, Linda J. Delawder, 52, of 909 ½ N. Second St., Ironton, pleaded guilty to two counts of trafficking in drugs and two counts of aggravated trafficking in drugs. Judge Charles Cooper sentenced her to four years community controlled sanctions under intensive supervised probation.

Lawrence County Prosecutor J.B. Collier Jr., told Cooper one of the reasons why he recommended only probation for Delawder was her willingness to seek treatment for her problem without even being ordered by the court to do so.

“When she was charged Mrs. Delawder went to Stepping Stones and completed a four-month program,” Collier explained. “ She is still in a transitional setting that can last up to a year.”

Delawder told Cooper she appreciated the chance to get her life turned around and has plans for her future that do not include drug abuse.

“I plan to go back to college in January,” she said. “I’ve been clean three months and 29 days.”

Cooper said while the sentence may have seemed a “little on the light side” he is impressed with her commitment to a drug-free life.

In another case Wednesday, Stacy Jenkins, of 287 County Road 5, Kitts Hill, pleaded guilty to one count of trafficking in drugs.

Bowling sentenced her to four years CCS/ISP plus 90 days of electronically monitored home confinement.

Also, Andrea Vaughn, 21, of 103 Fourth St. E., South Point, pleaded guilty to one count of grand theft.

Cooper sentenced her to 17 months in prison. If she stays out of trouble she could be eligible for judicial release after six months but must then serve four years CCS/ISP.