BELLE FOURCHE | Former Butte County State's Attorney Heather Plunkett, 31, today received suspended jail sentences for misdemeanor offenses involving possession and use of marijuana.
Judge Todd Hyronimus suspended the sentences conditioned on Plunkett's obeying the law for a year and meeting recommendations of a sealed drug and alcohol evaluation she voluntarily completed.
Plunkett told the court, "I used marijuana to cope."
She said that included both her personal and professional life.
"I'm not above the law," she said. "I took responsibility."
Looking at a courtroom filled with a number of law enforcement officers, she added, "I'm also proud of the fact that I have no ill will toward anyone in this room."
"I'm sorry," she said.
Plunkett and her husband, Ryan, had been charged with misdemeanor counts involving possession and use of marijuana.
On Dec. 23 she pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges of possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia as well as ingesting a substance other than alcohol.
Ryan Plunkett, 33, previously pleaded guilty to possession of marijuana and received a suspended jail sentence.
Plunkett said her husband has a job in Sheridan, Wyo., and the couple and their two children will move there.
As the sentencing hearing opened, Special Assistant Attorney General Paul Bachand, appointed to prosecute the case, explained how the Plunketts were charged with the drug offenses.
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Bachand said law enforcement received a tip in November of 2014 that drugs were used in the home.
A year later, another tip led law officers to do a check in the household trash, which revealed what appeared to be marijuana-related material. Part of that was a tissue that was soiled in a way that was similar to a person's having used it to clean a marijuana pipe.
A search warrant served at the Plunketts' Belle Fourche home Dec. 4 revealed what appeared to be marijuana in the residence bathroom and a marijuana pipe.
Bachand said that the Plunketts cooperated in the search, including offering the combination to a safe that contained "other items of marijuana and contraband."
Some of the medicine type bottles containing marijuana had labels, Bachand said, that were of the type used in marijuana dispensaries in Colorado, which has legalized the drug.
He added that it was "deeply troubling" that a person in a position of trust, as Heather Plunkett had been as state's attorney, would have been involved in marijuana use.
Kinney told the court that Plunkett had resigned her position as state's attorney, and that any further action on her membership in the state bar would be up to the bar.
He said she was "a personal user," and that law enforcement already went further in their investigation than was typical in a misdemeanor case. He asked that she be treated as others would be.
"Losing your job is a penalty," he said.
The official sentence is 90 days suspended jail time on one count of misdemeanor possession of marijuana and one count of ingesting a substance other than alcohol, both class 1 misdemeanors. On the third count, possession of drug paraphernalia, she received a 30-day jail term, also suspended.
Fines and costs of prosecution were less than $1,000 total, including a $400 fine on the possession charge, costs of drug and lab tests.