Jahna Jo Watson, 20, of P.O. Box 131, Hundred, was sentenced in Wetzel County Circuit Court on Friday by the Honorable Judge David W. Hummel to two one- to five-year prison sentences, one for each felony delivery of marijuana that Watson was found guilty of at the conclusion of a one-day trial that took place on March 22.
As to a motion filed for acquittal, Defense Attorney George Stanton suggested that the jury did not take the case seriously because of the lack of time spent deliberating the case. "What I can conclude is that the jury did not relay the court's instruction. I just feel they didn't take it seriously . . . What I can conclude, is that they held it against her that she did not testify."
Haught agreed that the time the jury was out was less than an hour, but added that the case was not a complex one. "It was not a difficult case," he stated.
Jahna Jo Watson
Judge Hummel denied the motion to overturn the verdict, though commended both sides on doing an "exemplary job" and on doing their jobs to inject reasonable doubt into the case. He agreed with Haught though, when denying the motion for acquittal, stating that the trial was not a "tremendous lengthy trial" and did not include a "tremendous amount of witnesses."
Judge Hummel then moved on to the sentencing phase of litigation, reiterating the fact that a pre-sentence investigation was conducted by Chief Probation Officer John D. Lantz. He then asked counsel if they had any comments in regard to the report. Neither side had anything to add, though Prosecutor Haught did want to confirm that there were two separate state police criminal investigation reports, one for the incident that took place on June 6 and the other for June 8. He added that when the report was given to Lantz, the office only provided him with one of the CI reports. It was agreed that the report had been given to the defense counsel during the discovery portion of the case.
Stanton agreed that everything in the report was accurate. Watson was then given the opportunity to plead her case to the court.
"I would like to get no jail time, because I do not use drugs," Watson stated. "The marijuana was not mine. I was getting rid of it for a person I was staying with. If she wasn't there, she asked me to take it out (to deliver)."
Stanton stated that he had gotten to know Watson "pretty well," and that he had worked with her closely the last two to three weeks. "She is a very nice person. I don't think she is a drug user. She's been on home confinement for a burglary, which Mr. Lantz says he's had no problems with her in the eight months or so that she's been on home confinement, so obviously she's not using or committing crimes. These two sales of a relatively small amount were done about two years ago; they were done prior to the burglary incident and prior to home confinement. It seems like she's had problems and issues about two years ago. Since then, she's behaved in exemplary fashion. She has two children that she's raising on her own. The father is gone; he's working on a railroad, but he's gone a lot."
Stanton asked that, "at the very least," Watson's home confinement continue, "if they don't think probation even is appropriate."
He continued, " I think that what happened here was a set up . . . not entrapment, but nonetheless was a set-up of a young lady that is likable, but rather limited . . . She receives a check for learning disabilities. She can't read and write. But even though it can't be called entrapment, it was a setup of someone who had no inclination of being a drug dealer. I know in Mr. Haught's opening statement . . . if he had any serious 404b type incident that she was a drug dealer, it would've been brought into trial."
"I have to believe Jahna. I don't think it would've happened if she had not had been set up by individuals who were wanting to get out of trouble. She realizes it was wrong, against the law. What she was trying to do, was help out a friend and help out the woman she was residing with. It's no sort of excuse, and we aren't trying to make an excuse, but if you look in the grand scheme of things, I don't know if what she did was really that bad. Her children need her." Stanton then referenced a news story he had heard on the radio that morning about how the majority of Americans believe marijuana should be legalized. "Frankly, I'd be in the minority, but it seems like something that is coming. It doesn't excuse her conduct today, but it puts it in perspective. I don't believe in using this stuff. She doesn't either. Bottom line - I don't believe that there's any purpose in stuffing her in a jam-packed cell for selling a total of five grams of marijuana. It's a substance that most people don't believe there's anything wrong with, if you'd factor it all in."
"Well your honor, the first thing the state would like to point out is Ms. Watson's criminal record. The first incident for which she was prosecuted involved nighttime burglary and also some batteries, which was very similar to the incident involving her sister, which I know has nothing to do with it, but it was a very similar incident. Basically in that case, she was upset. She forced herself in a residence and battered two individuals. And my recollection of that event is that it was over a dispute of a woman and her boyfriend at the particular time. So she has a conviction for nighttime burglary. She has a conviction for assault, and now she has two further convictions for basically delivering marijuana."
Haught added, "One thing that I have heard a lot of since I've been prosecutor, starting my 13th year, was 'I was just doing it to help out a friend.' It's so offensive to me. I can't explain how offensive. It's very difficult because delivering drugs is not helping anyone. If she thought she was helping the confidential informant out by delivering her drugs, then her thinking is completely off. If she thought she was helping the person who she was living with out, by being the middleman and delivering drugs, then her thinking is completely off.
"It boils down to something that my grandfather impressed upon me as a very young man: It's a matter of respect for authority. It's a matter of respect for law. Marijuana is against the law. What I see is Ms. Watson and so many people involved in the transfer of drugs . . . whether it's marijuana or prescription pills, it's a complete and total disrespect for authority and law, the justice system. In this particular case, you know she's broken the law now three times . . . four times."
"The other thing adding insult to injury, to West Virginia and America . . . she's receiving social security disability and she's breaking the law. And you know what? If I was receiving public assistance from the state of West Virginia or the United States of America, one thing I'd be certain of is that I abided the law. It's not only disrespectful. It's a lack of being grateful. She's being supported by the taxpayers of the state of West Virginia and the United States of America, and she's out selling drugs. It is what is wrong with the entitlement system of the United States of America . . . that very fact. The taxpayers of this state, of this county, and this nation are subsidizing people like Ms. Watson, people who have no qualms about breaking the law and delivering marijuana . . . It's disrespectful to every taxpayer in America and the state of West Virginia."
As to Stanton's reference of the marijuana offenses actually occurring before the burglary and battery, Haught stated, "I don't think it matters in the order these things happen, because certainly, I think if she had, had marijuana charges before other charges, she would've been sentenced on that. Given her criminal record, she should be sentenced to one to five years on each count. The state would ask those be imposed consecutively." Furthermore, "the state asks that those be consecutive to her nighttime burglary conviction for which she is serving home confinement . . . I would ask that if the court incarcerates her on drug convictions, she would not be able to finish her sentence on home confinement, so I don't think she should get credit for time served for her drug offenses. That's why I'm asking that it be consecutive for drug offenses, that would be my only recommendation."
"The only reason we aren't filing a recidivist, is because we have some questions as if that would be appropriate since the drug offenses actually occurred before the burglary."
Haught did note that he would not hesitate next time as to filing a recidivist. "Next time she has a felony, I'm filing a recidivist. Now she has a clear cut, three separate felonies." It was determined that next time, Watson could serve 50-60 years in prison.
Hummel asked Watson if her children were with her at the time she was dealing marijuana. Watson responded that she had only one child at the time and her sister-in-law would've been watching him. However, after further questioning, Watson admitted, "To tell you the truth, I don't know if he was there or not."
"How come you dropped out of school in the ninth grade?" Hummel asked.
"I just didn't feel like going any more," Watson admitted.
After further questioning, it was determined that Watson had never really had "real" employment. She did confirm that she receives a check for $710 on a monthly basis, because of trouble reading and writing.
"Do you think school would've helped with that?" Hummel questioned.
"What do you contribute to society?" he continued.
"I don't know what that means," Watson admitted.
"If you would've stayed in school, you would've known," Hummel responded.
Watson did state that the father of her children does financially support the kids and that he's employed, working on the railroads.
When asked if there was anything else Watson would like him to consider, Stanton added that the offenses related to marijuana actually occurred prior to the burglary convictions. Since then, "She's done pretty darn well," Stanton stated. "It was wrong . . . she acknowledges. I don't think she has spent a lifetime by dealing drugs in that community. Even when Mr. Haught spoke, he didn't say that. I feel again that there are better remedies which could be fashioned in regards to five to six grams of marijuana."
"This is perhaps a typical case where the court would want to send a message specifically to Ms. Watson. She has a felony criminal conviction previously, and it's well within the balance of the law to sentence her consecutively because there were two deliveries . . . a minute amount, I guess. But this person, Ms. Watson . . . she doesn't even know what the community is; she has no idea how she could contribute positively to the community. She's come into this very court previously." Hummel stated that in most cases, what he would probably do is sentence Watson to two one- to five-year sentences, one for each felony. He said he would suspend the second one, and "perhaps allow a rule 35b after a date certain."
However . . . "She has done well as far as I know on home confinement, but the court is going to break from what I might otherwise do . . . I'm going to sentence her to one to five years on count one, one to five years on count two. The court will not impose any fine whatsoever, as it would serve no true purpose other than to perpetuate her indigency and perpetuity. She never, frankly, tried to get a job. She subsists and exists on government monies, which I believe cease upon incarceration. I'm going to impose these sentences consecutively to the home confinement. I'm going to impose these sentences and send the message not only to Ms. Watson, but to all of Littleton that they need to abide by the law. Period."