By Diana Hefley Herald Writer
EVERETT — An Everett woman has been booted out of drug court after authorities learned of allegations that she was allowing large amounts of heroin to be sold out of her apartment.
Statements from the woman also have raised questions about whether her rent was being picked up by taxpayers.
Laura Pearson, 23, told detectives that the Snohomish County drug court was paying the rent for her small apartment on Dorn Avenue in Everett, court papers said. Pearson had been a participant in the county’s adult drug court since last year.
Court authorities Thursday said the program does not pay people’s rent, but acknowledged that some participants receive housing vouchers through the county’s Human Services Department.
“If people are not in stable, safe housing they’re not going to succeed in their treatment,” said Janelle Sgrignoli, the program administrator for the county’s specialized courts.
The county has various programs to assist with housing needs. Vouchers are provided for up to six months to some people battling alcohol and drug addictions. They must be engaged in treatment services. Recovery support specialists monitor their progress, Snohomish County Drug and Alcohol Coordinator Shelli Young said.
Additionally, drug court participants are subject to unannounced home visits by court staff and police, Sgrignoli said. They also are required to submit to random drug testing throughout their participation in the program.
“There’s a little bit of trust, but a lot of accountability and monitoring,” Sgrignoli said.
Although court documents say Pearson’s rent was being paid by the public, it was unclear Thursday if that was the case. Officials said that confidentiality laws prohibit them from disclosing the names of people who receive housing voucher assistance. Young said the scenario as described by Pearson didn’t sound familiar to her.
It also wasn’t clear Thursday if Pearson was under investigation for misusing public assistance. Snohomish County deputy prosecutor Janice Albert said she couldn’t discuss the ongoing investigation.
Albert charged Pearson earlier this month with unlawful use of a building for drug purposes.
In August, Pearson was caught up in an investigation that led detectives to 11 ounces of heroin and $50,000.
One of the co-defendants, Alan Waterman, 24, was selling a kilo of heroin a week, according to police. A pound of heroin typically sells for up to $15,000 between drug dealers.
Prosecutors allege that Waterman stored, weighed and packaged the drugs in his Dorn Avenue apartment and then walked them over to Pearson’s place to sell.
Pearson allegedly told investigators that she let Waterman and his girlfriend sell out of her apartment, Albert wrote. She reportedly said she knew what they were doing, but tried to look the other way.
Shortly after Waterman was arrested and detectives seized the drugs and cash, officials kicked Pearson out of the drug court program. The reason cited in court documents was Pearson allowing drugs to be sold out of her apartment.
As a condition of being accepted into drug court, Pearson had agreed not to demand a trial for the underlying charge that led her to the program. Snohomish County Superior Court Judge George Bowden found Pearson guilty of second-degree burglary, stemming from wire thefts at a PUD building in 2010.
She also was convicted of possession of a controlled substance. The charge was filed in December, shortly after Pearson entered drug court. During one of her weekly required court hearings, the judge determined that Pearson had violated drug court rules and ordered her jailed. A search at the jail uncovered that Pearson was hiding a small bag of heroin.
Despite the violation, she was allowed to remain in drug court. It seems now her chances have run out.
“Sometimes relapses happen. It’s all a cycle of recovery and recovery is a life-long process,” Sgrignoli said.
So far, data shows that people who graduate from drug court have a better shot at staying on the right side of the law. More than 500 people have graduated from the county’s adult drug court since it started in 1999. The recidivism rate for graduates is less than 10 percent, which is lower than the national average, Sgrignoli said.
To successfully complete the program, participants must obtain a GED diploma, if they don’t have one. They must pay all court fees and any restitution owed victims, become employed, complete all the phases of their treatment program and have been clean and sober for at least six months. Prosecutors agree to drop the criminal charges after graduation.
Drug court supporters have long said that addressing a person’s drug addiction can effectively reduce crime and save money in jail and prison costs.
The county recently approved spending $200,000 to conduct an independent audit of the adult and family drug courts. That evaluation is underway.
Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463; firstname.lastname@example.org.