45 Days in Jail For Meri Burkhardt

Oct 3, 2013

Meri Jeanne Burkhardt, 34, was sentenced Thursday for her role in sending oxycodone tablets to Dillingham last April.

DILLINGHAM:   Last April, a Dillingham resident and his young son were sitting at the Pen Air terminal at the Ted Stevens Airport in Anchorage, waiting to board a flight home. Meri Jeanne Burkhardt, a 34-year old who grew up in Dillingham but moved to Anchorage in 2005, approached the man, whom she knew, and asked if he'd carry a package of frozen dead mice on the flight to a friend. She said the mice were food for a pet snake.

The man agreed, but later thought better of it and checked the box. Inside he found a small package he assumed might contain drugs, and notified authorities.

WAANT investigators later searched the package and found nine-half tablets of oxycodone, a prescription medicine used as a substitute for heroin. Oxycodone is a schedule 1A controlled substance under Alaska law.

On July 29th, Burkhardt pled "no contest" to attempted misconduct involving a controlled substance in the second degree, a class B felony. Her sentencing was held Thursday in Dillingham.

The presumptive sentence for Burkhardt's crime is one to three years of jail time, but Judge Fred Torrisi, who presided Thursday, said that the small amount of drugs involved was a "mitigating" factor that could allow for a shorter sentence.

The state's prosecutor asked that Burkhardt be sentenced to one year in jail, along with probation time and electronic monitoring. She said that although Burkhardt had no criminal history and has strong potential for "rehabilitation," sending drugs to Dillingham poses a "serious threat to the community, and the sentence needs to reflect that."

The defense attorney argued that Burkhardt is not the "appropriate person for the community to take its wrath out on."

He told Judge Torrisi that Burkhardt sent the drugs to help a family friend, that her actions were motivated by money, and that she had since cooperated with the state, even giving up the name of the supplier.

A number of Burkhardt's family and friends were at the courthouse Thursday to show support for the 34-year old mother of four.

Judge Torrisi called it "extremely rare" to have a someone before his bench with no criminal history, and indicated he was not inclined to send Burkhardt to jail. But he acknowledged the prosecutor's argument about the problem of drugs in the community, and handed down a sentence of 45 days in jail.

Burkhardt is to remand herself to custody on November 1st to begin her sentence. She will be on probation for 30 months following her release.

22-year old Lindsay Sifsof was on the receiving end of the package of mice and oxycodone. Sifsof is still facing a misdemeanor charge for possession of the oxycodone tablets.