WILLISTON, N.D. — Saying he’d never seen a case with more heroin involved, a judge sentenced a 46-year-old woman to 10 years in prison.
The sentence came Thursday, Sept. 5, after Michelle Moore entered an Alford plea to 17 drug counts. In an Alford plea a defendant does not admit guilt but does admit prosecutors had enough evidence that a conviction is possible.
Moore is the girlfriend of Archie Mooney, the 55-year-old man convicted last week of identical charges after a four-day jury trial.
The pair were arrested in December and charged with possession of methamphetamine with intent to deliver, possession of heroin with intent to deliver, both class A felonies, three class B felony counts of possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver, two class C felony and four misdemeanor counts of possession of drug paraphernalia and six misdemeanor counts of possession of a controlled substance.
Police and prosecutors said the couple had nearly 177 grams of heroin, along with large amounts of methamphetamine, cocaine, oxycodone and marijuana.
“It’s the largest amount I’ve seen in a case that’s come before me,” Northwest District Judge Josh Rustad told Moore during a hearing Thursday.
Nathan Madden, assistant state’s attorney for Williams County, asked Rustad to sentence Moore to 20 years in prison, which is the maximum sentence for a class A felony. Madden said the pair had sold nearly $300,000 worth of drugs in two months last year.
He also criticized Moore for failing to take responsibility. He told Rustad that Moore’s use of an Alford plea and her maintaining she was not as involved in the sale of drugs of Mooney pointed to her not accepting the harm she caused.
“If she doesn’t think it’s wrong and she doesn’t think she’s been involved, then what can you do?” Madden said.
That harm went beyond Williston, he said, because the money from drug sales went back to suppliers in other places.
“She is the face of the opioid crisis,” Madden said.
Misty Nehring, Moore’s attorney, asked Rustad to sentence her client to serve two years in prison. She said Moore had only one prior conviction, for a misdemeanor drunken driving charge, and that happened more than a decade ago.
Nehring said she understood the amount of drugs police found meant that Moore was likely to spend some time in prison, but asked that the judge look at her past actions, as well.
“It’s certainly something that should be taken into consideration,” Nehring said.
Moore apologized and asked the judge for a chance to prove she was not a danger to the community.
Rustad sentenced Moore to 20 years in prison, but suspended all but 10 years.
She will get credit for the 275 days she spend in prison since her arrest and after her release, she will have to serve three years of supervised probation.
Mooney is scheduled to be sentenced on Oct. 18.