Monday, January 05, 2009

Levi Johnston's Mother Appears In Palmer, Alaska Court On Oxycontin Charges; Sherry Johnston Pleads Not Guilty

Note: I would have merely updated my previous post on this issue, except another major related story surfaced this past weekend, warranting another individual post.

Sherry Johnston, the 42-year-old mother of Bristol Palin's future husband Levi Johnston, made her first court appearance on January 5th, 2008, and pleaded not guilty to the drug charges against her today. Sadly, she was alone; no lawyer, friends or family showed up to support her. Presumably, her son Levi could not get time off from his apprenticeship to be there, or he would have likely shown up. Full story in the Anchorage Daily News; over 500 public comments posted to the story so far. KTUU Channel 2 extended video (3:52) posted below:

Johnston asked for a public defender. She told Palmer Superior Court Judge Beverly Cutler that she is in the midst of a divorce and living on medical disability payments and child support. A pre-trial conference is scheduled for February 20th, and trial tentatively slated to begin on March 31st.

Sherry Johnston was indicted by a Palmer grand jury indicted her on six felony counts of misconduct involving a controlled substance relating to possession and sale of the prescription painkiller OxyContin. Alaska State Troopers claim that Johnston admitted selling OxyContin pills to one of their informants. They arrested her on December 18th at her Wasilla home, then released her on bail. An additional account of the investigation was published December 25th in the Mat-Su Frontiersman.

It's been an eventful week for the Johnston family. First, on December 28th, Bristol Palin gave birth to Tripp Easton Mitchell Johnston. Then on January 3rd, KFQD's conservative radio host Dan Fagan ignited another controversy when he revealed that Levi Johnston had been accepted as an electrician apprentice by the Arctic Slope Regional Corporation (ASRC) without Johnston first securing his high school diploma, despite the fact that the State of Alaska specifically requires electrician apprentices to have a high school diploma and one year of Algebra I as a prerequisite for entry into the program. There's no evidence so far that Sarah Palin had anything to do with it personally. [Note: This issue is now moot; the Anchorage Daily News reports that as of 6:15 P.M. on Jan 5, Levi Johnston has quit his ASRC job.]

But here's the major story from this past weekend to which I previously alluded. On January 3rd, the Anchorage Daily News detonated another bombshell with an article revealing that political pressure may have been exercised to delay the arrest and prosecution of Sherry Johnston until after the November 4th general election in order to protect Sarah Palin's chances of becoming vice-president. Kyle Young, a drug investigator for the Alaska State Troopers who was involved in the case, claims that there was a delay in serving the search warrant until after the election. In an e-mail sent last week to all members of the Public Safety Employees Association (PSEA), Young wrote that after it became clear who Johnston is, "this case became anything but normal. It was not allowed to progress in a normal fashion, the search warrant service WAS delayed because of the pending election and the Mat-Su Drug Unit and the case officer were not the ones calling the shots". The article does not link Sarah Palin personally to these efforts.

Alaska Public Safety Commissioner Joe Masters and Troopers director Col. Audie Holloway vigorously dispute that there was anything irregular in how this case was handled. "We worked very hard to make sure we conducted it just as fairly and as normally as any other investigation," Holloway said.

It should also be noted that PSEA, and in particular, the Alaska Correctional Officers Association (ACOA), have had a tempestuous relationship with the Palin Administration, with the focus of their ire on Corrections Commissioner Joe Schmidt. Furthermore, Governor Palin's pursuit of Trooper Mike Wooten has not necessarily endeared her to the PSEA. So we cannot rule out some bias contamination amongst the rank-and-file.

While Sherry Johnston does need to be held accountable for breaking their law, it's sad what this ordinary salt-of-the-earth family has had to endure because of the notoriety imposed upon them by their association with the Palin family. Levi Johnston in particular has a hell of a burden; not only must he minister to the needs of his future wife and current child, but he must be incredibly frustrated to see his mother in legal trouble and to be effectively unable to provide meaningful assistance to her.

1 comment:

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