A 48-year-old Hilo woman who graduated from Big Island Drug Court was sentenced Wednesday to 10 years in prison for selling prescription painkillers.
According to prosecutors, Geri Manners sold 60 hydrocodone pills, which are marketed as Vicodin, to a police informant on four occasions in 2011 and 2012, after having a felony drug charge erased by going through the court-sponsored education and treatment program.
Manners pleaded guilty Oct. 25 to four counts of second-degree promotion of a harmful drug, a Class B felony punishable by up to 10 years imprisonment. She was originally charged with six counts of promoting a harmful drug in the first-degree, a Class A felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison, and five counts of possessing drug paraphernalia, a Class C felony punishable by up to five years imprisonment.
With no prior felony convictions, Manners was eligible for probation, but deputy prosecutor Jason Skier asked the court to impose consecutive 10-year prison terms for a 40-year sentence.
Skier told the court Manners sold drugs “purely for monetary gain” and operated “a sophisticated criminal enterprise.”
“She was intentionally giving misinformation to her doctor in an effort to get additional pain pills so she could go out and sell these pain pills,” he said. “… I think the court should take judicial notice that distribution of pain pills is one of the growing problems in our community.”
Skier called Manners “a menace to the community” and “a horrible role model for other people who have gone through the drug court program.”
“As noted twice in the pre-sentence report, … she stated, quote, ‘hell, yeah,’ when asked if she would use methamphetamine again if offered,” he said.
Manners’ attorney, deputy public Defender Michael Ebesugawa, argued for probation or concurrent prison terms and acknowledged his client “continues to have problems with drugs.”
“She has recognized that her morals, her beliefs, her values were compromised as a result of drug and alcohol abuse.
“I think it’s very clear in her statements in the pre-sentence report,” he said.
Ebesugawa added Manners is “a straightforward speaker” and was “very frank in describing the wrongs that she committed.”
“To those who are not addicted to drugs, it may seem very callous. It may seem inexcusable,” he said. “But those who work with people who have a drug addiction and the court have seen this many times. It doesn’t excuse her conduct, but it makes it understandable in the context.”
He said if Manners was sentenced to 40 years, she “could very well die in prison for these drug convictions.”
“We want to give her the opportunity and hope to resurrect her life,” he said. “… It is important to note that this is Miss Manners’ first felony conviction.”
Manners tearfully pleaded the judge grant her “a last chance to prove to the court that I am not a bad person and not a threat or danger to the community.”
“I was under a lot of stress. I had a lot of financial problems,” she said. “… And I was afraid I was gonna be homeless and living on the street once again.
“… I ask the court for a chance of staying out of jail to prove to my family, who I love truly, and prove to the court and the community that I can be a good mother and a good grandmother and a good person.”
While passing sentence, Hilo Circuit Judge Greg Nakamura said he was troubled Manners “manipulated” her physician “for the purpose of getting those pills for the purpose of sale” after having graduated from drug court.
He noted drug court was the only reason Manners had no prior felony convictions.
“The court believes, obviously, that there is no justification for your conduct and your conduct is of the type that seriously harms the community,” he said.
Email John Burnett at firstname.lastname@example.org.