Lawyer argues for lighter sentence for meth co-conspirator

What is an appropriate sentence for a person whose offenses are largely fueled by an addiction?

This is a question that prosecutors must wrestle with every day.

An attorney for a former Minot woman facing sentencing on federal drug charges is arguing that she should receive a lighter sentence than recommended by a federal prosecutor. Jade Marie Backman, 35, is scheduled to be sentenced on Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Bismarck before Judge Daniel Hovland.

Federal guidelines say that Backman should be sentenced to between 130 and 162 months in prison on a meth conspiracy charge; her attorney, Brian Toay, writes that Backman should be sentenced to 60 months. Backman has already served about two years.

“Given that Jade has already served nearly two years in this case, there is no need for a sentence greater than the 60-month mandatory minimum sentence required by law,” wrote Toay. “This will allow more than enough time to complete addiction and vocational education.”

In the 2016 case, according to a plea agreement filed with the court, Backman agreed to plead guilty to conspiring with Joseph Headrick to distribute approximately half a pound of meth. In the other case, Backman was one of several people charged with distributing meth in the Minot area between 2014 and 2015 that was transported by others from California into North Dakota.

“In the 2015 case, Jade was a local distributor for a larger drug conspiracy,” wrote Toay. “In the 2016 case, Jade was receiving methamphetamine from her boyfriend. This occurred while she was out on pretrial release for the 2015 offense.”

Toay writes that those crimes were fueled by her own addiction to meth. Prior to 2013, she had lived a law abiding life and had worked as a certified nurse’s assistant. Toay writes that she began using meth and became involved in criminal activity after her child’s father was killed in a car accident. She eventually lost custody of both her children and committed offenses including theft, possession of drug paraphernalia and child endangerment before she was charged in the federal drug conspiracy cases.

While she has been held at the Heart of America Treatment Center in Rugby, Backman has helped knit items for a local nursing home. Toay submitted letters of support for her from law enforcement officials there.

Her co-conspirator in one case, Bryan Keith Davis, was sentenced to just 84 months in prison and played a greater role than Backman did, according to Toay.