Judge gave meth dealer chance, and she blew it
Mesa County Chief District Judge David Bottger on Tuesday said he had “no regrets” about his decision to alter a sentence for a reputed large-scale methamphetamine dealer — opting for treatment over prison — despite the dealer’s recent arrest after walking away from treatment.
Starlyn Marie Tait, 31, was sentenced on Tuesday by Bottger to serve eight years in prison. She could potentially be parole eligible in less than two years.
“I don’t regret what I did but I regret the outcome, which was never in my control,” Bottger said of his highly unusual handling of the case in April 2012.
“I still think it was a risk worth taking,” the judge added. “She’s responsible for her own behavior in Community Corrections.”
Bottger last year first sentenced Tait to serve six years in prison. Within days, the judge issued an order stopping Tait’s transfer to prison and issued a new sentence: eight years in Community Corrections.
Tait, however, was arrested March 6 on an escape warrant for allegedly walking away from the non-secured facility on Feb. 27. Chief Deputy District Attorney Dan Rubinstein said Tait was a “miserable failure” in Community Corrections and racked up repeated violations of policy.
Bottger said Tait’s violations included a positive urinalysis for alcohol shortly before she walked away Feb. 27, possession of alcohol and cigarettes, contraband including a cellphone, a lighter and food stamps. She was also accused of failing to turn over $144 in tips she’d received from a waitress job.
The judge also said Tait successfully completed a women’s substance abuse recovery program and had started a cognitive restructuring therapy group.
“She wasn’t out selling drugs, and while that’s not to applaud what she did, the damage to the community, if any, was minimal,” Bottger said.
Tait was arrested in September 2011 following an investigation into a Mesa County drug ring, which Rubinstein said produced evidence Tait at one point was selling an ounce of meth daily over several days. In a pre-sentence report, Rubinstein said Tait explained she was “too lazy” to get a job and minimized her dealing and meth’s impact on the community.
In reversing himself last year, Bottger said a six-year prison sentence he initially ordered in the case likely would have been pared down to about two to three years, and that after being paroled Tait may have gotten back into drug dealing.
Rubinstein on Tuesday asked the judge for a prison sentence keeping Tait in prison for at least six years, after factoring in those same time reductions.
“I don’t think taking her out of the community for six years, given what she did, is unduly severe,” the prosecutor said.
Tait’s unresolved felony escape case is scheduled for a preliminary hearing on June 11.