"This could be a new beginning for you, or the beginning of the end for you, depending on the decisions you make," Judge Douglass told Keli Dumas.
At what might have been the height of last summer’s spike in drug activity in Bristol Bay, a WAANT investigator seized a package at the Dillingham post office that was found to contain 1.2 grams of black tar heroin, and perhaps more disturbing, 3 grams of crystal meth.
At the time, authorities said it was probably only the third time in three years that meth had been seized in Dillingham.
The package was addressed to Keli Dumas, 27, of Dillingham, who was arrested and charged with felony possession and intent to distribute drugs.
On Wednesday, Dumas pled guilty to reduced charges, and as part of the deal has been released from custody on account of time already served. KDLG’s Dave Bendinger has more:
Authorities reported that Dumas cooperated when they asked to search a package she picked up at the post office. She was arrested when what appeared to be small bundles of narcotics were discovered inside. The narcotics later tested positive for heroin and meth. The heroin, 1.2 grams worth, had a street value in Dillingham of about $1200 - $1500. Authorities were not exactly sure how much the crystal meth was worth because so little of it has been seen trading hands in Nushagak River communities.
She was arraigned on two drug related felony charges, the more serious one relating to the heroin, and held in custody on $15,000 bail. As per those original charges, Dumas faced a maximum of 30 years in prison, but on Wednesday that was reduced to just 60 days as per a deal she reached with prosecutors.
Dumas offered this at her sentencing:
Keli Dumas: “I’m just grateful to have this opportunity to fix my mistakes.”
The prosecutor and judge referred to Dumas’ 60 day sentence as a “shock treatment.” But Dumas has already served more than 120 days in jail since her arrest last August, meaning she was to be released after the hearing Wednesday.
The two drug charges were each reduced in degree, but are both still felonies. So following her guilty plea Wednesday, Dumas has felony convictions on her record. But the agreement contains a “suspended imposition of sentence,” which is a very big gift prosecutors can offer in plea deals. As Judge Patricia Douglass explained to Dumas, the SIS means that if she completes the three years of rather strict probation attached her sentence, those two felonies will be taken off her record:
Judge Douglass: "If you are successful, at the end of that three years, that conviction will be set aside, and it will be as if you did not have a conviction. Do you understand that? So if you go to a job interview or something, and they say do you have any felony convictions, you’d be able to say no. But that’s only if you’re successful."
Dumas has up to four years of jail time hanging over her head that could be imposed if she doesn’t abide by the terms of her probation. But aside from that, the prosecutor, defense attorney, and the judge all said the focus of the agreed upon sentence was rehabilitation:
Judge Douglass: "This is a serious day, this is an important day for you. This could be a new beginning for you you, or it could be the beginning of the end for you, depending on decisions you make.”
Rehabilitation is the number one priority of a sentence, according to Judge Douglass. But all parties also spoke of what was described as the “scourge” of the drug problem which has been clearly condemned by the community, and the judge said that too gets weighed when determining a sentence:
Judge Douglass: "It’s important for everyone to feel that we are following through and supporting the community standards. And I will tell you that our community has been shocked to the core to know that there was black tar heroin and methamphetamine and other drugs that we as a community didn’t ... I guess we felt like we were immune to them for many many years ... we were. But now the times have changed and people are very upset, scared, and apprehensive. And they look to the court to enforce these community standards."
Last August, Keli Dumas imported heroin and crystal meth to Dillingham with intent to sell the drugs for profit. Provided she follows the conditions of her probation, the case against her has been closed less than five months from the date of her arrest.
The prosecutor described Dumas’ SIS and sentence as “very favorable”, and was intended to provide her a chance to rehabilitate. Dumas now has three years of strict probation to prove that she can.