Woman sentenced in prison drug-smuggling case

May 16, 2006|by KAREN HANNA


A Hagerstown woman who attempted to deliver balloons filled with marijuana and heroin to a prisoner at Maryland Correctional Training Center has been sentenced to serve at least two years in prison.

Penny Christine Riser, 37, of 3 Cypress St., Apt. A, wiped her eyes several times Monday before hearing Circuit Judge W. Kennedy Boone III pronounce a sentence of eight years in prison. All but two years of the sentence will be suspended, and a one-year sentence on a separate charge will run concurrently, Boone said.

A jury on April 12 found Riser guilty of heroin possession, heroin possession with intent to distribute, marijuana possession, marijuana possession with intent to distribute and possession of contraband, Boone said before pronouncing sentence. Riser could have faced up to 20 years in prison on the charge of possession of heroin with intent to distribute, Boone said.


Prison staff is doing a good job of keeping contraband out of the hands of inmates, Warden Mike Stouffer said at the sentencing.

Because of the limited amount of contraband that gets into prison, Stouffer said some inmates take extreme measures to get drugs and tobacco products.

"If we could control it more, it would make it a safer environment for everyone, both our staff and those who are committed to our custody," Stouffer said.

People outside prison sometimes bring contraband into the facility, send it through the mail or throw it over the fence, Stouffer said.

"Unfortunately, there's occasions when staff even brings it in," Stouffer said.

Riser was arrested Sept. 26 after a Maryland Division of Correction officer found balloons filled with marijuana and heroin in her car in the parking lot at the prison, according to documents.

Though the inmate who arranged the drug drop-off was sentenced to serve only one year in addition to his current 30-year sentence, Assistant State's Attorney Christopher McCormack told Boone he believed Riser should face a sentence that reflects the danger contraband poses in the prison environment.

"Any inmate can be in the wrong place at the wrong time and be subjected to violence when they shouldn't have to be. Any correctional officer can be in the wrong place at the wrong time and be subjected to violence," McCormack said before sentencing.

Riser asked Boone to impose a sentence that would allow her to continue her job as a manager at a clothing store.

"I realize now I was a pawn in this game, and now my record is ruined," Riser said.

Though Riser has been participating in a drug-treatment program, McCormack said he believed she was not motivated by addiction.

"This was purely ... this wasn't an addiction issue. This was either a financial or a love issue," he said.

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