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Attorney: Woman sold cocaine to buy Halloween costumes for children

July 08, 2010|By DON AINES

HAGERSTOWN -- A Hagerstown woman whose attorney said she sold crack cocaine to buy Halloween costumes for her children was sentenced Thursday in Washington County Circuit Court to four years in prison.

Kesha Jean Russ, 33, of 1004 H Noland Drive, pleaded guilty May 27 to criminal conspiracy to distribute a controlled dangerous substance, according to court records. In exchange for her plea, the state did not prosecute her on charges of distribution of cocaine, possession of cocaine and possession of drug paraphernalia, court records show.

Circuit Judge Donald E. Beachley gave Russ a 10-year sentence with six years suspended, followed by three years of probation.

"You let your kids down by getting involved in the drug trade," Beachley told Russ.

The state asked for a cap of five years for the prison sentence, a figure that could have been lowered if Russ cooperated on other cases, said Robert Veil, the supervising state's attorney for the Washington County Narcotics Task Force.

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"That has not transpired," Veil said.

A 1997 conviction for criminal conspiracy to distribute a controlled dangerous substance could have qualified Russ for a 10-year mandatory sentence, but Veil said the subsequent offender notice in the case had been withdrawn.

Russ's attorney, Bernard W. Semler, told Beachley the incident took place two days before Halloween and that she got involved in the sale of crack because she wanted to buy costumes for her four children. That information was captured on the electronic surveillance of the controlled drug purchase, he said.

Semler said Russ was not a drug user and asked for leniency from the court.

On Oct. 29, 2009, a task force informant made contact with a woman who could obtain crack cocaine, according to the statement of probable cause in the case. The woman told the informant she "was looking to make some money," the statement said.

The informant gave Russ money to buy the cocaine, the statement said. Russ got into a parked vehicle and returned to the informant's vehicle with the cocaine, the statement said.

Police arrested two men in the other vehicle and found about half an ounce of crack cocaine, the statement of probable cause said. One of the men had $2,820 in his pants pocket, the statement said.

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