By Joe Beck
WOODSTOCK -- A Quicksburg woman has been sentenced to three years in prison on drug charges stemming from an incident in which authorities found a syringe filled with heroin inside her vagina while she was serving a jail sentence.
Amanda Leigh Bennett, 30, was already serving time in the Shenandoah County Jail when the Sheriff's Office fielded an anonymous report in late May of five women inmates under the influence of a controlled substance.
Bennett's attorney, David Downes, and assistant commonwealth's attorney Ilona White agreed that an anonymous tipster also identified Bennett as the source of the drugs after authorities began an investigation.
"Other statements from other inmates identified the defendant as the source of the controlled substance," White told Circuit Judge James V. Lane.
Lane said the prison term came in "at the lower end" of state sentencing guidelines. He warned Bennett to adhere to the terms of probation after her release from prison or face a much longer sentence if she is convicted of more crimes.
"This is really your last opportunity before you have a great deal of time in prison," Lane said.
Bennett entered Alford pleas to five charges -- four counts of manufacturing or distribution of heroin and one count of being a prisoner in possession of a deadly weapon.
An Alford plea means the defendant continues to maintain her innocence while admitting the prosecution has assembled enough evidence to convict her beyond a reasonable doubt.
Her sentence also includes three years of supervised probation and two years of unsupervised probation.
Downes said in an interview after the hearing that the prosecution's evidence that his client was the source of the heroin rested on statements from other inmates with dubious motives and credibility.
He said the evidence was not clear whether Bennett was the source of the heroin obtained by the other inmates, but he and his client concluded a trial carried too many risks.
"It would have been an ugly case to have tried for both sides," Downes said.
Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or firstname.lastname@example.org