Drug sentence upheld for Ironton woman

Published 9:43 am Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Court says she won’t pay fine and fees

An Ironton woman who entered an Alford plea on a drug charge last year will not get a reduction in her prison sentence, but she will not have to pay any fine and may not have to pay court costs connected with the case because she is indigent, the Ohio Fourth District Court of Appeals has ruled.

Diana Waddell, of Ironton, was indicted in 2009 on one count of complicity to trafficking in drugs. According to court papers, Waddell, who suffers from several medical ailments, gave her daughter, Amanda Blake, two Oxycontin pills from Waddell’s prescription and Blake sold the pills.

Both women were arrested; Blake was charged with trafficking in drugs while Waddell was charged with complicity. The following year Waddell chose to enter an Alford plea, meaning while she did not admit guilt, she found the offer of a five-year prison sentence too good to pass up.

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But in her appeal, Waddell contended that her five-year term was the same as the one imposed on her daughter, even though her charge was only a complicity to Blake’s trafficking and that Blake was sentenced on four charges from two separate cases.

“The trial court abused its discretion when it sentenced Ms. Waddell to five years of incarceration. Ms. Waddell’s codefendant [sic] received [sic] the same sentence as Ms. Waddell, yet, the two had dissimilar circumstances and different degrees of culpability,” Ohio Public Defender Timothy Young wrote on behalf of Waddell.

The appeals court disagreed.

“…the trial court expressly imposed the same sentence on appellant as it did her daughter, based upon the ‘facts and circumstances of the whole thing,’” Judge Peter Abele wrote. “Admittedly, the court was somewhat vague as to the precise facts or reasons, but the appellee (Lawrence County Prosecutor’s Office) argued at the outset of the hearing that it considered appellant’s (Waddell) offense ‘more heinous’ than her daughter’s because appellant supplied the Oxycodone.

“Indeed, we agree with the trial court that little difference exists in this case between appellant and other suppliers of illegal drugs supplied for distribution. Furthermore, appellant involved her own daughter in this illegal enterprise and her daughter is also now in prison. We cannot conclude that appellant’s five-year sentence is outrageous, unreasonable or unconscionable.”

However, the appeals court did agree that Waddell’s attorney should have filed indigency documentation at the time of her sentencing, thus alleviating the burden of a $5,000 state mandated fine.

The appeals court also ruled court costs associated with Waddell’s case may be waived as well if the common pleas court sees fit to do so, given her indigency.

“The Ohio Supreme Court has held that a waiver of court costs is permitted, but not required, if a defendant is indigent,” Abele wrote in his decision.

Appeals Judge Roger Kline concurred in judgment and opinion. Fellow Judge Matthew McFarland concurred in judgment only.