Juneau, Alaska (KINY) - Tina Cousins was sentenced to 30 months in prison and five years supervised release by U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Burgess.
Authorities said Cousins, 51 was arrested with over 150 grams of methamphetamine and 41 grams of heroin after she got off a plane at Juneau International Airport on January 11, 2019.
Juneau Police said they found the drugs in a carry on bag.
She entered a guilty plea to one count of possession with the intent to distribute methamphetamine and heroin.
Authorities tied her to 95.71 grams of methamphetamine and 76 grams of heroin.
Prosecutors alleged Cousins was also a drug addict.
Judge Burgess said he has reduced sentences in the past based on the amount of actual drugs found in the substances seized.
The guideline sentence for the crime was between 70 and 87 months, court records show.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jack Schmidt said Cousins was well-known by law enforcement as a suspect in drug trafficking. "It was a significant amount of methamphetamine. She has never really been in trouble but has always been someone known to be involved in drug trafficking."
He cited a study that showed the enormous cost of drug abuse on the state.
Substance abuse cost the state $3.5 billion in 2018, with about 2/3rds of this involving alcohol abuse, Schmidt said.
"Drug use leads to losing productivity at work, or being incarcerated in some sense, it is one of the largest parts of the costs to Alaska."
The study found 22,000 Alaskans had used illegal drugs in 2018. This included 5,000 people who admitted to using methamphetamine and 3,000 who admitted to using heroin, he added.
He estimated that drug addictions and abuse cost the state $1.06 billion in 2018.
He said an increase in crime means people feel less safe and feel less trusting.
"She's an addict but she may be creating new addicts, it is an endless cycle on a community. It has negative effects on people who are trying to be productive members of society," he added.
"Cousins did not come into this as a person caught in a vacuum," he concluded.
He requested a sentence of 60 months in prison. He said he asked for a below guideline sentence because Cousins had no prior record.
Judge Burgess asked what weight he should give to the prosecutions claims Cousins was a suspect in other crimes.
Defense Attorney Theresa Yvette Soutiere said her client was an addict who was around a lot of drug users and traffickers. "She got involved legally with opioids. The costs went up and the supply dried up when doctors stopped prescribing them."
She said her client has health problems. She noted her client received drug treatment after the arrest last January and completed the treatment program.
"She is working toward her betterment. This is a very serious offense but you can see that she is taking this very seriously. She is not using drugs, buying drugs, she has a job in the sewing room, and taking every advantage at the jail."
She also sews blankets for Juneau Animal Rescue.
"I feel she has been along for the ride. She has had a very bad drug problem. She knows this will be a life long thing."
Soutiere said her client refused pain medication after breaking two ribs at Lemon Creek Correctional.
"Were looking at a mule who brought in drugs because they have an addiction problem and not because they were gaining monetarily from this," she concluded.
Cousins apologized to the community, her family and her kids for being an addict. "I know that I broke the law and I know that I need to be punished. I just wanted to apologize."
Judge Burgess said Cousins has a serious substance abuse problem. He requested she receives drug treatment while in custody and after she is released from jail.
"These types of drugs can have a disproportionate impact on smaller communities. These are communities that lack the resources to respond to the introduction to these types of drugs and what they can do. It is serious conduct."
He added that drug addiction can cloud a person's judgment.