Judge lightens sentence in meth-dealing case
In an unprecedented move, Chief Mesa County District Judge David Bottger altered a sentence Monday for a Clifton woman, giving her eight years in community corrections instead of six years in prison.
Starlyn Marie Tait, 30, of Clifton, was arrested in late September in connection with a methamphetamine drug ring that authorities uncovered through a wiretap investigation. According to an affidavit for Tait, she was responsible for selling about an ounce of meth a day for several days during the investigation. One ounce of meth, or about 112 servings, costs about $1,600, according to law enforcement.
Monday, Bottger said he had gone back and forth with Tait’s sentencing, which he handed down Wednesday.
With Tait in attendance, Bottger changed his prison sentence to eight years in community corrections and a $3,000 fee, called a drug offender surcharge. When Tait attempted to thank him, Bottger replied that he didn’t want to be thanked and the new sentence would probably be more difficult than a prison sentence.
“I was wrestling with it not because I thought the prison sentence was too harsh,” Bottger said Wednesday. “Her behavior was worth every year.”
Bottger said Tait’s six-year prison sentence likely would have been pared down to about two to three years, and that after being paroled she may have gotten back into drug dealing. In pre-sentence documents, Tait indicated she did not have good friends or family in the area, and Bottger on Monday said her “peer group isn’t going to improve in prison.”
An alternative to prison may more quickly get her services that aid in rehabilitation, he said.
“The community will be better served by giving Ms. Tait the opportunity to get the help she needs,” Bottger said.
Mesa County Chief Deputy District Attorney Dan Rubinstein, who helped prosecute the case, said he wouldn’t comment on the altered ruling.
Bottger’s altered sentence appears to be in line with a new theory being tested in the Mesa County Criminal Justice system called evidence-based sentencing. The theory is that criminals who are locked up with other criminals or whose sentences are too stringent may become more hardened and increase their chances of recidivism.