GOSHEN — A judge lowered bail for an Osceola woman charged with dealing meth during undercover investigations, though not nearly as much as she wanted.
Michele Johnson, 48, was arrested March 1 and charged with two counts of dealing methamphetamine, as a Level 3 and as a Level 4 felony. She was booked in the Elkhart County Correctional Facility on $100,000 bond.
On Thursday, she asked that it be reduced to $20,000, which her lawyer said would allow her to pay a bondsman $2,000 to be released from jail as she awaits trial. Attorney Michael Banik noted she wouldn't be able to afford anything more, a lack of funds that he also argued makes her less of a flight risk.
"She has no assets," he said. "Poor people can't run, that's just the reality."
Elkhart County Deputy Prosecutor Don Pitzer disagreed, noting she has relatives out of state and is looking at 16 years in prison for the Level 3 felony alone.
"Contrary to the comment that poor people can't run, I think anyone who can get into a car, whether it's their own or someone else's, can get anywhere in the U.S. or beyond," he remarked.
Johnson told the judge she hopes to get into rehab and has no intention of skipping town if she makes bail.
"I have no plans to wreck my life any more than I already have, your honor," she said.
Circuit Court Judge Michael Christofeno reduced her bond to $75,000, which is the standard amount for a Level 3 felony, after expressing concern with her out-of-state relatives and addictions issues. He also observed that it's much easier for the court to ensure she won't relapse while she's in custody.
Johnson is currently scheduled for trial June 4.
Also Thursday, the judge nearly doubled the community service hours a woman must do as punishment for not starting on her existing hours.
Heather Poe, 30, is serving the six-year probation portion of the sentence she received in June 2013 after pleading guilty to dealing meth as a Class B felony. She was also sentenced to four years in prison.
She appeared in court Thursday on allegations that she violated the terms of her probation by not performing 50 hours of community service in addition to testing positive for meth in February 2017 and still owing more than $3,000 in fines and fees. She admitted to the violations and told the judge her grandfather had died the month before and she used drugs once, but said she was clean before then.
She also agreed to return to probation, attend treatment and perform an additional 40 hours of community service.
Pitzer, who prosecuted the original case, noted that she's been given multiple opportunities over the years. He acknowledged that she does well when she's clean and sober but said there may need to be moderate sanctions at some point.
"There's gonna come a time when Miss Poe is gonna sit in a cage," he told the judge.
Christofeno remarked that the fact that she can be on good behavior when off drugs puts her in good company: "That's every addict in the world," who can behave when sober but act despicably when gripped by addiction.
He accepted her agreement even while expressing doubt that another 40 hours of community service would be enough of a sanction for someone who didn't do her original 50. He also revoked her probation and re-imposed the six years, then re-suspended them, warning her that she would serve the time in prison if she didn't follow the agreement.
"I want you to be a nice young lady and stay off of meth and drugs," he said, emphasizing each word. "Good luck, do not come back here to see how the judge is doing. Because I will be doing well but you will not be."