Heroin enterprise nets state sentence
BY STACI WILSON
While on state probation, an Oakland Borough woman and her husband were caught in May 2012 dealing a substantial amount of heroin out of their home.
At a sentencing hearing Thursday morning, Shawna Whritenour’s attorney, Frederick Meagher III, argued for a county sentence
Instead, she was sentenced Thursday in Susquehanna County Court to serve 21 to 48 months in state prison, followed by five years probation. She is eligible to serve a Recidivism Risk Reduction Incentive sentenced (Triple R-I) for nonviolent offenders which would shorten her overall sentence to just short of 16 months.
Whritenour, along with her husband Steven, were found to have 13 bricks and four bundles of heroin hidden in their home.
Steven Whritenour was sentenced in November 2012 to serve five years on the drug trafficking charge.
Prior to her sentencing, Shawna Whritenour took the stand, admitting that her opiate addiction was the reason she had started dealing drugs with her husband again.
She told the court she has been sober since the birth of her child and has been attending her on a regular basis.
The pastor of the Windsor, N.Y., church she has been attending took the stand on her behalf.
Whritenour apologized saying, “I’m sorry. I messed up and now want to prove myself. I really want to be part of civilization.”
Her state probation officer also took the stand and described her present situation as “tenuous” and that she still had not changed her network of friends.
She said that after their 2009 arrest on drug charges, she and her husband had stayed clean until he was issued a prescription for painkillers, which he began to abuse, she said.
“It escalated fast,” Whritenour told the court, describing weekly trips made to New Jersey to pick up the drugs.
District Attorney Jason Legg asked her how much heroin was moving through the couple’s Oakland Borough home.
“Quite a bit,” she answered, agreeing with Legg’s assertion that hundreds of bags of heroin were sold from their home each week.
The district attorney said that although Whritenour currently seems to be doing well, her three felony convictions – all for dealing drugs – left the court with few choices.
“She does have a future ahead of her,” Legg said, “but she has run out of breaks.”
Although the district attorney waived a five year mandatory sentence, Attorney Meagher argued that he had a more “philosophical” take on the criminal justice system and he was not convinced the sentencing guideline ranges were appropriate for his client.
President Judge Kenneth Seamans said, “It’s one thing to be an addict; it’s another thing to be dealing a substance that could kill someone. It’s like a slow, painful killing.”
“It’s not philosophical,” Legg said about Whritenour’s felony record. “It is what it is.”
The judge seemed to agree.
“This is the third time,” he said calling the matter “serious.”
“This was an enterprise between you and your husband. There are going to be hardships. You had to be fully aware of those when you continued on with this.”
The judge then referenced “The Little Boy and the Rattlesnake,” a tale told in various forms by indigenous people around the world. In the tale, a rattlesnake promises not to bite a boy if he carries him to safety. Once safe, the snake bites the boy.
“You knew what it was when you picked it up,” he told Whritenour. “And you picked it up again and again.”