Druggie Mortician Gets Suspended Imposition of Sentence

Last April, Aberdeen police found more than $14,000 worth of drugs and seventeen firearms on the premises of the Schriver Funeral Home, a few blocks from my house. In July, co-owner George Schriver pled out of two felony drug charges by copping to misdemeanor DUI and marijuana ingestion. George received a fine a $998, suspended jail sentences, loss of driving privileges for 45 days, and DUI counseling. Co-owner James Schriver pled guilty to felony possession of meth and marijuana. Yesterday, James received five years probation, a bill for $2,742 in fines and court fees, and 60 days in jail. The court gave James suspended imposition, meaning that if he makes it through probation without making trouble, we wipe these charges from his record.

Evidently figuring in this relatively easy felony sentence were folks vouching for James’s character:

In a character reference letter submitted to Judge Jon Flemmer by Stephanie Jacobson, James Schriver’s friend, he is described as a man who would give the shirt off his back to someone in need and someone who provides financial, spiritual and emotional support to friends.

Jacobson’s letter also noted that there has been dysfunction within the Schriver family [Elisa Sand, “James Schriver Gets Suspended Prison Term on Drug Charges,” Aberdeen American News, 2016.09.07].

James and George Schriver also had a successful family business and the concomitant wealth to buy new shirts for their backs and community respect to help them deal with dysfunction. They had advantages and options that low-income drug users and dealers do not. Using and dealing (the amounts of drugs found at the mortuary look more like dealer quantities than a personal stash) illegal drugs are never acceptable options, but such actions are even more offensive when committed by individuals who have accumulated power in the community. Wiping these crimes from this criminal’s record seems like an unwise favor to one who deserves no favor.


31 Responses to Druggie Mortician Gets Suspended Imposition of Sentence

  1. Easy Cory. We have clemency laws for a reason, and they apply to older first-time felons who are (were) respectable members of the community just as they apply to young first-time felons.

  2. Douglas Wiken

    The problem with “light” penalties for the rich and connected is not necessarily with that, but with the absurdly costly penalties for those unable to pay for good lawyers, etc.

    I do not understand SD prosecutors hell-bent on prosecuting and generating expensive prison costs for out-of-state residents who face prosecution in their own states. Let those states pay for imprisonment.

    SD has twice as many prisoners as does ND with similar population types. I suspect it does nothing to actually reduce crime here. Get sheriffs and others off their dead asses and obviously patrolling and crime will come down. The mills of the courts grind slowly and in-efficiently. More money needs to be spent on alternatives rather than more on prisons.

  3. Lighter sentences for marijuana is exactly what we need. The meth and guns I could do without. I’d also like to wipe the word “druggie” off the face of the earth. Or apply it to everyone who uses caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, pain killers, insulin, etc. etc.

    I do agree that the courts need be more fair with regards to everyone caught using or dealing. If this was a first-time-offender young black man he’d be in jail for years and a felon for the rest of his life.

  4. bearcreekbat

    Arguments that lament leniency in non-violent criminal cases seem misplaced and reactionary.

    Instead, in the short term, we first should be advocating that every single non-violent drug offender be given an opportunity to clear his or her record upon completion of a successful sentence of probation and community service instead of sending him or her off to prison.

    Second, in the long term, we should reform our outdated and draconian drug laws so we never again need worry about sentencing anyone for non-violent drug activities. If someone has a drug problem, treatment is the rational and compassionate means to help him or her deal with it.

  5. mike from iowa

    I have noticed, in recent months, judges are reluctant to hold star athletes accountable for drug possession, weapons charges and sexual assaults if the upstanding young athletes are potential NFL draft picks with millions of dollars at stake. Judges are falling all over themselves and the courts to kiss ass on these felons(potential if they are actually charged).

  6. Tomas, I’d be happy to see the word druggie wiped from the world. Folks not doing drugs would achieve that goal pretty directly.

    Bear, I don’t want to fill our prisons with offenders who don’t need it. But I lean toward Douglas’s statement about who gets leniency. If I were convinced that the low-income folks who don’t enjoy the economic and social advantages of our local morticians get the same leniency, I wouldn’t hackle up.

    But there’s a component of the crime here that goes beyond mere use and possession. The Schrivers occupied positions of trust and power. Their crime violated that trust. Their crime took place in their place of business, arguably putting others at risk. Their crime thus seems different from typical drug cases in a way that might mitigate against typical leniency.

  7. bearcreekbat

    I get it Cory, the poor should not be treated any more harshly than folks with money and power. I would phrase the argument this way:

    “Good news, recent well thought out sentences imposed by our court on two Aberdeen non-violent drug offenders provide powerful evidence that our courts are beginning to impose more thoughtful and rational sentences for non-violent drug offenses. These judges are to be commended for their wisdom in choosing this type of leniency for drug sentencing. And our state and people will benefit greatly as these more rational and fair sentences become the norm for SD non-violent drug offenders across the state, regardless of their race or economic status.”

    That approach focuses on the real problem – judge who use their discretion to impose counterproductive and draconian sentences for non-violent drug offenses. Your presentation, however, implies our judges should impose harsher sentences on non-violent offenders based on the implicit theory that since poor non-violent offenders deserve and get harsh sentences, everyone should have a harsh sentence. In my view, such an approach is bad public policy and does nothing to help the poor offender – rather, it sadly implies that the draconian sentences imposed on the poor offenders are fair and just and should be imposed on everyone.

  8. Bear, you put it well. If you are correct, if the criminal justice system is generally punishing non-violent drug offenses too harshly, and if the treatment of our esteemed local businessmen sets a proper standard, I hope that standard will be applied consistently to every drug offender.

    But as you can tell, I hesitate to exert myself to help those whose wealth and power suggest they do not need as much help as others who have struggled against far greater disadvantages.

  9. mike from iowa

    Set the poor free and let the haves squeal like pigs. The haves have had it too good for too long while the have nots bear the wrath of the justice system.

  10. mike from iowa

    bear- check this out sometime when you have a minute and see if you spot a problem with Texas gubmint. http://juanitajean.com/son-of-a-motherless-goat-2/

    Texas law schools must teach a whole ‘nother constitution than the rest of the states.

  11. mike from iowa

    Mayhaps Darin would like to take a stab at this. :)

  12. bearcreekbat

    mfi – I always appreciate links to Juanitajean – thanks!

    Cory, I thought we were probably on the same wave length regarding drug sentences for poor folks. People like the Aberdeen morticians don’t need our arguments, but poor folks and non-white folks sure don’t need anyone suggesting that their sentences should be the standard by which we consider what is appropriate for any drug offender.

  13. Darin Larson

    mfi, I hesitate to comment on this story without knowing all the facts. I’m generally pretty harsh on criminals, but I do believe drug courts are worth a shot for nonviolent offenders. I also know that we have not invested nearly enough in treatment for drug addicts. The societal costs of addiction are obviously huge and while we have these folks locked up they need to be treated for their addiction to reduce recidivism.

    From the facts that Cory gave us, the sentences seem light to me, especially if the drug quantities imply one or both were dealers. Dealing meth is not an offense that I would expect a suspended imposition of sentence to be allowed. I haven’t looked into the quantities they were charged with possessing, so maybe they had personal use quantities of meth and maybe more pot. Assuming they were personal use quantities and assuming they were upstanding citizens otherwise, I can see the sentences being appropriate.

    If I was in Cory’s neighborhood and there was any inkling of meth dealing going on there, I would do everything I could to lobby the authorities against a light sentence like this. That stuff ruins people’s lives. The first time someone uses meth, they can become addicted and spend the rest of their (usually short) life seeking that high again.

  14. Darin Larson

    I see it was 4 grams of meth which is probably personal use. 2.78 pounds of pot is a lot but could go either way. At least James will be on probation for five years and I hope they get their lives back in order.

  15. Darin, the gun cache is another odd element of the evidence. Just how much danger did the Schrivers think they were in at their funeral home?

  16. bearcreekbat

    Cory, the gun cache also opens the door to a separate federal prosecution:

    https://www.justice.gov/sites/default/files/usao-ut/legacy/2013/06/03/guncard.pdf

    Either (or both) of these men face substantial federal prison time if he possessed these guns at the time when could have been found to be “an unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance (as defined in section 102 of the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 802)).”

    The amount of drugs seized makes such a gun crime “low hanging fruit” for any federal prosecutor. Unless their defense attorneys made a global plea bargain deal that included the feds promise not to prosecute for federal offenses, these morticians legal troubles might be just beginning.

  17. The boys should have been ordered to drug rehab. Most addicts don’t quit on their own and I predict there will be more drug crimes going on with them until one of them ODs or they enter rehab.

  18. mike from iowa

    Guns are important in case of a zombie apocalypse. The drugs used create the zombies. The guns erase the zombies.

  19. mike from iowa

    Darin-the case I was referring to was the Texas guv and AG basically blowing off and altering a district court order for Texas to educate voters on proper i.d.

  20. Interesting, Bear! I didn’t realize there were separate federal statutes that could bear on this case. I haven’t heard mention of federal charges yet… but I agree with the intent of the federal law you point to, to recognize that guns pose an extra danger in the hands of certain people.

    Mike, I did think about the zombie angle. Working in a mortuary could turn one’s thoughts to the apocalypse….

  21. Daniel Buresh

    The feds never follow through on the current gun laws, what makes you think they will now? This is what those of us who don’t want more bs regulation have been complaining about for years. Even with the laws on the books, they never go after those who have firearms violations unless they are the big ones like fully autos, sawed offs, or other illegal alterations. Straw purchases, possession while under the influence, lying on sales applications…..none of it gets chased unless it is the only thing they can use to keep someone in trouble. Frankly, I would guess a large number of people who use drugs in the Midwest have weapons. I don’t believe there is a correlation other than hunters can be druggies too. For the record…that’s not a lot of guns.

  22. Darin Larson

    Daniel Buresh–you say “Even with the laws on the books, they never go after those who have firearms violations unless they are the big ones like fully autos, sawed offs, or other illegal alterations. Straw purchases, possession while under the influence, lying on sales applications…..none of it gets chased unless it is the only thing they can use to keep someone in trouble.”

    That is a total load of bunk. Where do you get your facts? I know the feds have gone after straw purchases and other gun violations routinely.

  23. Darin Larson

    mfi, sorry, I misunderstood. I am not surprised that Texas politicians try to ignore federal court orders. If the GOP wingnuts in Texas can’t follow a court order properly, I hope the court throws the book at them and errs on the side of voter eligibility. Make the burden fall on the state to prove someone is not an eligible voter. Put the Texas AG in jail until they comply with the court order. These are the same people who would lecture us on respecting the rule of law. Flipping hypocrites!

  24. bearcreekbat

    Daniel, the best advice seems to be never say “never.” In my experience federal prosecutors in North and South Dakota frequently prosecute individuals for unlawful possession of firearms, including individuals who are involved in non-violent drug offenses.

    While there are reports that prosecutions for gun possession offenses have dropped some in recent years, it is simply factually incorrect to state that “The feds never follow through on the current gun laws.”

    A US Sentencing Commission report for 2014 describes the type of federal crimes that are prosecuted and punished. According to this report, “There were 7,925 firearms cases reported to the Commission in fiscal year 2014, only slightly fewer than the year before. These cases represented 10.5 percent of the caseload. . . .”

    http://www.ussc.gov/sites/default/files/pdf/research-and-publications/research-publications/2015/FY14_Overview_Federal_Criminal_Cases.pdf

  25. mike from iowa

    Thought the courts recently decided straw purchases were illegal.

  26. Daniel Buresh

    “That is a total load of bunk. Where do you get your facts? I know the feds have gone after straw purchases and other gun violations routinely.”

    They are only doing that when it suits their agenda. It is pretty common knowledge among both parties that more enforcement needs to be done. Obama has said it himself. It seems they tend to focus their efforts on stopping the guns from getting to the bad people rather than prosecute the bad people for having guns. It’s not to say that they don’t always look past prosecuting people, but there is some variance to it. When you talk with the dealers, they will tell you the same. The problem they see is the atf uses incidents to do more harm to the dealers by running them through the mill when someone is able to skirt the laws by lying or falsifying info. They don’t hand out class 3 licenses like they used to and they are really cracking down on who has them and if they are legitimate. Opening up NICS for public access alone would allow for holding people more responsible for private sales, but we can’t even get that to pass.

  27. Daniel Buresh

    “In my experience federal prosecutors in North and South Dakota frequently prosecute individuals for unlawful possession of firearms, including individuals who are involved in non-violent drug offenses.”

    That wouldn’t surprise me if we are on the other end of the spectrum. We probably have a much smaller case load compared to other areas to allow for prosecuting the smaller type crimes. It’s not like we have large embezzlement issues or anything to worry about.

  28. barry freed

    George Will, not to be thought a Liberal, claimed in an op-ed that LE property seizures have surpassed the thefts of criminals, with far less than 1/2 of suspects and no Police ever being charged with a crime.

    “Druggies”? Way to dehumanize… just like Trump!

  29. Darin Larson

    barry freed, your PC is showing.

    Tomas, when my addiction to Mt. Dew causes me to rob, steal, drive impaired, waste my life away or shoot someone, then you can apply druggie to caffeine users.

  30. Trump dehumanizes individuals based on sex, race, color, creed, disability, and other human characteristics that are not matters of choice. The Schrivers, with their success and wealth, made bad, illegal choices that put others at risk. I feel no compunction over describing them with the term “druggies.”

  31. barry freed

    No, Darin, my humanity is showing.

    Dew gives people a bun in the oven, round belly that has been scientifically proven to result in cancer, herniated discs, and diabetes, Taxpayers have to cover the medical and living costs for their addiction after they can’t work anymore and run out of money. Mass quantities of caffeine cause the addict to display mental disorders that manifest themselves in anti-social behaviour and speech. After a Democrat Mayor in NY banned caffeine in any but small quantities, Cory is coming for your Big Gulp and Starbuck Caff Houses, you filthy, bad breath addicts*.

    Cory,
    You can show nothing in the Constitution giving us the Right to jail fellow Americans for drug use. Nor can you show that imprisonment ever helped anyone quit, unless they already wanted to.

    * of which, I am one