Friday, July 22, 2011

Salem meth-manufacturing mom sent to prison for 2 1/2 years

The woman's husband will serve five years. The drug was detected in both of their children.

Cassandra Christley

Cassandra Christley

Bradley Christley

Bradley Christley

A mother of two who pleaded guilty in April to making methamphetamine in front of her children will serve about two and a half years in prison -- or roughly half as much time as her husband, who was convicted of the same crimes.

Roanoke County Circuit Judge Robert "Pat" Doherty on Thursday sentenced Cassandra Christley, 28, of Salem, to 10 years on the two counts against her -- making meth and doing so with a child present -- but suspended that to 30 months, minus time served. He also suspended a $1,000 fine, but found her liable for $115 in restitution to Salem police.

Her husband, Bradley Christley, pleaded guilty to the same charges and received five years in prison.

Both were arrested during a sting in September and had their bond revoked in January after they failed drug tests.

Cassandra Christley, seven months pregnant, took the stand at her sentencing and said incarceration had saved her life. She said her jail time has been her longest period of sobriety since she started using drugs and alcohol at age 11.

"I never would've stopped," Christley told the court. Her mother, grandparents and other relatives were present in court during the sentencing hearing.

"She has taken advantage of the police essentially saving her life," said defense attorney Patrick Kenney, who stated Christley had no significant prior criminal history and, while in custody, has earned her GED and completed a drug treatment program.

Kenney also attributed some of her problems with substance abuse to sexual abuse she suffered at the hands of a relative during her teens.

But Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Matt Pollard argued she should get the same five-year sentence Bradley Christley received.

"The commonwealth seeks punishment not because she's a drug addict, but because she's a drug maker and supplier," Pollard said. Much as her relative's actions had damaged her, he said, "her crimes will affect her children."

But Doherty eventually granted the shorter sentence asked for by the defense, and told Christley, "I don't find you quite as culpable as your husband."

The couple were arrested Sept. 9 in the parking lot of the Food Lion off West Main Street in Salem after making a deal to supply a police informant with $100 worth of meth. In need of supplies, they'd driven to the store with an active, "cooking" container of methamphetamine ingredients and their children, ages 4 and 5, in their sport utility vehicle.

A drug task force officer testified in April that agents moved in on Bradley Christley once Cassandra Christley and the children went into the store. He said that during the arrest, the bottle of ingredients fell out of the SUV and rolled across the parking lot.

Investigators found meth in the systems of both children, possibly from their exposure to chemicals during the cooking process.

Following her release, Christley will be on probation for 10 years, and her contact with children will be subject to court supervision and approval. Her husband received a probation period of 18 years.

Kenney had also asked the judge for a monthlong furlough to coincide with the expected September delivery date of Christley's child, but Doherty declined that request and said she would receive the standard amount of hospital time granted to pregnant prisoners.

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