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Fargo woman who drove drug dealers gets prison

FARGO -- A Fargo woman who drove local crack cocaine dealers around town in exchange for small supplies of the drug was sentenced Thursday to 15 years in prison.

Karin Ilene Condon's sentence, handed down in U.S. District Court in Fargo, was much lighter than it could have been. As a repeat offender with several drug-related felonies on her record, she faced a mandatory life sentence. Condon pleaded guilty in April to being part of a 16-person conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute controlled substances in the Fargo-Moorhead area, including crack cocaine, cocaine and heroin.

But Condon, 55, offered "substantial information on individuals in the Fargo-Moorhead area" who sell and manufacture drugs -- not just on the fellow members of the conspiracy but others in the area as well, said her attorney, Aubrey Zuger.

Federal mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines for drug offenders allow for lighter sentences if a defendant aids in another investigation or prosecution.

All but one of the other 15 members of the drug conspiracy have pleaded guilty or informed the court that they intend to plead guilty, according to court records.

In exchange for her client's help, Zuger requested a 12-year sentence for Condon.

Condon's daughter, Jessica Condon, begged U.S. District Court Judge Ralph Erickson for a shorter sentence for her mother. Through tears, she told the court that her mother is "not a career criminal. She is an addict."

Karin Condon spent nearly three years in prison after being convicted of several felony charges of conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance -- methamphetamines -- in 2005. In court documents, prosecutors pointed to a "pattern of convictions (that) has been nonstop since age 39."

"I don't think she's getting justice because she's not getting the help she needs," Jessica Condon said. "There are people out there who kill people and get less time."

Assistant U.S. Attorney Brett Shasky acknowledged Karin Condon provided prosecutors with significant information on local drug activity, but he said that's what they expect of defendants in drug cases. He asked Erickson to hand down a 20-year sentence, which he called a substantial reduction from the possible life sentence.

Condon again admitted to driving local drug dealers around the area, and said she did so because she "wanted to get high, plain and simple."

She told Erickson she is sober now, and wants to spend as much time as possible with her mother, daughter and granddaughter before her ailing health worsens.

"I have lost too much time to addiction," she said, pleading for a lighter sentence.

Erickson said his hands were tied by the mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines. He sentenced Condon to 15 years in prison, after which she would spend five years on supervised release with a number of tight restrictions.

The judge took a shot at the lawmakers in Congress who originally passed the "narrowly crafted" sentencing guidelines for drug offenders in 1984.

"Congress and the president created this problem," Erickson said.