2 Arkansas women admit to meth distribution after testing positive for drugs before plea hearing

2 Arkansas women admit to meth distribution after testing positive for drugs before plea hearing

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Two east Arkansas women, whose plea hearings were cut short Friday after both tested positive for methamphetamine, each pleaded guilty Monday to conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine.

Terri Andrews, 56, of Earle, and Michelle Hood, 38, of Trumann, each face a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine after entering pleas Monday morning before U.S. District Judge James M. Moody Jr. Both women, who had been free on pre-trial release before appearing in court Friday, were ordered jailed for the weekend.

In addition to Andrews and Hood, 11 other people indicted as part of a Crittenden County-based drug trafficking organization run by Jermaine Johnson of Marion — including Johnson himself — pleaded guilty Friday to various charges and face maximum sentences ranging from four years to life in prison.

The drug investigation, dubbed Operation “Money Don’t Sleep,” targeted drug trafficking in and around Crittenden County that resulted in the arrest and prosecution of dozens of people in two phases of the operation.

Andrews was ordered to report to in-patient drug treatment at Crowley’s Ridge Development Council in Jonesboro to begin treatment, which will be followed by a stint in chemical-free living until her sentencing date comes up sometime in the next three to four months. Andrews’ attorney, Arkie Byrd of Little Rock, told Moody she had secured a bed there for her client should he release her into treatment.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Kristin Bryant told Moody she had no objection to allowing Andrews to report to drug treatment but said she wanted to be sure the chemical-free living arrangement was part of the order.

“I wouldn’t want her to complete residential treatment and just get out,” Bryant said.

“You’ll be under a zero tolerance situation with the court, which means any violation and you’ll be brought back and held until you’ve completed your sentence,” Moody told Andrews. “I do not want you in an unstructured environment because I think that’s the only chance you have.”

Moody allowed Hood to return home to await sentencing following a plea from her attorney, Lee Short of North Little Rock, but cautioned her that any violation would result in her immediate return to jail. Short pointed out that Hood had successfully completed drug treatment over two years ago and had begun rebuilding her life.

Moody initially seemed unsure.

“In light of the circumstances on Friday, is there any reason or justification for why Ms. Hood fell off the wagon, so to speak?” Moody asked. “I’m concerned that those circumstances haven’t changed in any way. Ms. Hood is facing the same challenges she was facing before she came in here on Friday. … At this point I suppose I’m open to suggestions.”

Short argued that Hood had gone into drug treatment following her arraignment and had done well and made “great strides” toward rebuilding her life. Prior to her hearing Friday, he said, she was overwhelmed with the idea that she would likely go to prison, which he said led to her use of drugs prior to the hearing.

“I think she’s done everything to an A-plus level for over two years,” he said, noting that Hood had received promotions and increased responsibilities at her job because she had been a top performer since her release on bond and subsequent drug treatment.

“I understand the court’s reason for believing the stressors will remain for however many months until the sentencing,” Short said. “But it’s hard for me to see it being a treatment issue when she’s done remarkably well. I think the threat of what she just went through the last 30 days … is enough threat to ensure she never does it again.”

Short said he understood if drug treatment were to be ordered, but asked that Hood be released and ordered to undergo regular drug testing as a way of allowing her to remain at her job until sentencing.

Noting that Hood had recently been promoted at her job and had done well for over two years, Bryant did not object to allowing her to remain free until sentencing. Bryant said if Hood tests positive at some point, in addition to other possible sanctions, she would likely ask for an upward variance.

“I’m going to let you stay out on bond with zero tolerance,” Moody told Hood. “If you test positive even once you’ll remain in custody until you’re designated by the [Bureau of Prisons].”

“Yes, sir, I understand,” Hood said.

“Completely understand?” Moody asked.

“Completely,” Hood replied. “One hundred percent.”

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