Woman has an opportunity to be “a true success story,” — Defense attorney Steve Evenson

Woman has an opportunity to be “a true success story,” — Defense attorney Steve Evenson

Woman has an opportunity to be “a true success story,” — Defense attorney Steve Evenson

“I often come before you with clients who have substance abuse issues and life issues — but I have not encountered a change like the change I see in Ms. Chaffin in a long time,” Ashley Alison Chaffin’s attorney told Judge Montero. “This is not someone who merely looks better when they’re coming to court and has a new outlook, it is literally as if, in talking and communicating with her, her IQ has increased 60 points,” attorney Steve Evenson continued. “She has thought behind her words; there is a complete change in her countenance and how she is dealing with things.”

Chaffin’s original felony burglary charge was plead down to a gross misdemeanor — conspiracy to commit grand larceny. Chaffin has been involved in drug court as a condition of her release, prior to sentencing. 

Evenson said “This person who has been involved in drug court for a couple of months now is a completely different person than the one who previously found herself doing what I call ‘a life sentence on the misdemeanor installment plan.’” 

Evenson said Chaffin’s offenses, both current and past, were related to drug addiction and some mental health issues that are now being dealt with. “She is starting down the road to being a true success story,” he said.

Chaffin said she had a hard time fitting in growing up and “just wanted to make friends and made connections with the wrong people,” in spite of having a loving and supportive family. “They tried to help me before but I was in denial,” she said.

“To be brutally honest,” said Evenson, “She went into the drug court program kicking and screaming.” 

Chaffin acknowledged the truth of what her lawyer said. Her attitude changed, with the supervision, counseling and drug testing she has been required to do.

“I’ve been so much happier since I’ve been sober,” Chaffin told the judge. “Tomorrow will be 90 days sober.”

 “I wish I’d never gone down that road,” Chaffin said, speaking of using drugs, “It’s been a long 10 years.”

Chaffin will have the opportunity to become the success story her attorney mentioned. Judge Montero put her on a sentencing diversion program that will give her the opportunity to end her addiction and set a new course for her life. 

— See COURT, Page 13 —

An evaluation by a counselor confirmed that Chaffin is a drug addict who would benefit from and was likely to respond to drug treatment and supervision under the drug court program. She will be on a three year probation with restrictions including no liquor or controlled substances including marijuana in any form whatsoever, no presence in any bar or casino where liquor is a major profit center, no over-the-counter medications without prior approval of her probation officer and drug court team. She must  successfully complete the approximately 18-month drug court program and then complete the remainder of her probation.

Between Chaffin and Richard Common — the individual she was arrested with — a restitution of $1,038.60 was ordered to be paid to the victim of their theft. 

JOYCE SHEEN • The Humboldt Sun

Sarah Marie Heitman was accepted into Family Treatment Court

District and Justice Court cooperate on treatment

By Joyce Sheen


Sixth Judicial District Court Judge Michael Montero agreed to a Justice Court request from Justice of the Peace Letty Norcutt to allow Sarah Marie Heitman to take part in Family Treatment Court, even though Heitman’s DUI-2 charges are still on a misdemeanor level. Specialty treatment court services are usually reserved for individuals facing gross misdemeanor or felony charges.

“I have been very comfortable working with Judge Norcutt in Justice Court to help out so we don’t have to create separate justice court and district court treatment programs,” Montero said. But then he struggled a little with determining which treatment court would offer the services most appropriate for Heitman’s situation.

Felony DUI Court is a three-year program, with five years probation. Drug Court also was not the right fit. Heitman has no mental health diagnosis, so Mental Health Court wasn’t an option. Montero determined that the one-year program of Family Treatment Court, was a good fit, as Heitman has a young daughter who was endangered because the little girl was in the vehicle when Heitman was arrested the second time for DUI.

Counselor Brian Nelson found that Heitman’s alcohol use constituted a substance abuse problem. Family Treatment Court has many of the same requirements as Drug Court, including drug and alcohol testing and counseling. In addition, Heitman will be eligible to attend the Strengthening Families or Celebrating Families program. 

Heitman was ordered to complete DUI School and a Victim Impact Panel. She must have a breath interlock device installed on any car she drives for the next year.