By Diana Hefley Herald Writer
EVERETT — An Everett woman was blamed for giving Snohomish County’s drug court a black eye after she allowed large amounts of heroin to be sold out of her apartment.
“You drug the reputation of the drug court through the mud,” Superior Court Judge Marybeth Dingledy said last week.
Laura Pearson, 24, apologized for harming the program that gave her opportunities to get clean and to avoid the lasting impacts of a felony conviction.
Dingledy on Friday sentenced Pearson to a year in prison. It will be Pearson’s first stint in prison after quickly racking up a handful of felony convictions stemming from her drug addiction.
In August, Pearson was caught up in a police investigation into drug trafficking. She was a participant in drug court at the time.
The dealer, Adam Waterman, was selling a kilo of heroin a week, court papers said. Waterman stored, weighed and packaged the drugs in his Dorn Avenue apartment and then walked them over to Pearson’s place to sell. Pearson told detectives she let Waterman and his girlfriend sell out of her Everett apartment. She said she knew what they were doing but looked the other way.
Waterman was sentenced last month to nearly a decade in prison.
Pearson also told detectives that drug court was paying her rent. The program does not provide rent money. Court staff may connect participants with resources that provide housing assistance.
Snohomish County deputy prosecutor Janice Albert told the judge on Friday that because of Pearson’s statement, there was negative news coverage about the drug court program.
Albert asked the judge to impose a $2,000 fine, saying Pearson had received numerous benefits in drug court, which she “flushed down the toilet.”
The defendant also had received a lot of money from the “government that she never had to repay,” Albert said.
Pearson pleaded guilty on Friday to heroin possession and unlawful use of a building for drug purposes. She faced up to 18 months in prison.
Dingledy pointed out that Pearson had been given several chances to get her life back on track. She squandered those opportunities and her actions also affected those in drug court who are trying to better themselves, the judge said.
After Waterman’s arrest, officials kicked Pearson out of drug court, citing the drugs sales out of her apartment as the reason.
She then was convicted of second-degree burglary for stealing wire at a PUD building in 2010. That was the underlying offense that brought her to drug court. She also was convicted of possession of a controlled substance. The charge was filed in December 2011, 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.
Pearson was sentenced to five months in jail for those convictions. She also has added a felony conviction out of King County.
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 Snohomish 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.
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.
Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463; firstname.lastname@example.org.