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Woman sentenced to probation in drug case

FRONT ROYAL – A pregnant woman received probation and a suspended prison sentence Monday for her role in a 2016 drug case.

Judge Clifford L. Athey Jr. sentenced Catherine R. Catherman in Warren County Circuit Court to five years in the state penitentiary with all time suspended for committing one count of distribution of hydromorphone. Athey ordered Catherman to complete three years of supervised probation. Catherman, of Linden, pleaded guilty to the charge in an agreement reached between her lawyer Eric Wiseley and Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Michael Fleming.

Athey accepted the agreement and sentenced her within the guidelines that called for an alternative punishment to active prison time.

Authorities worked with a confidential informant who set up a deal to buy drugs from Catherman’s co-defendant Joseph J. Heath, Fleming said during his proffer of the evidence the commonwealth would have presented had the case gone to trial. The informant wore audio-visual recording equipment during the deal. The informant met with Catherman on March 8, 2016, at a local McDonald’s. They then traveled to a residence on Cherrydale Avenue in Front Royal and picked up Heath. During the exchange, Heath handed a cigarette wrapper containing two Dilaudid pills to Catherman, Fleming said. Catherman then handed the pills to the informant, Fleming added. The pills later tested positive for hydromorphone.

Athey asked Catherman if she agreed that Fleming had provided a proffer of the commonwealth’s evidence. Catherman said yes. Wiseley said he would have disputed some of the facts provided. Fleming reiterated that Catherman had handed the pills to the informant.

Athey said he recognized Catherman’s “delicate condition,” noting she is pregnant and had found the terms of the agreement an appropriate disposition. The judge added that he found the plea agreement compatible with the public interest. The agreement called for the court to suspend the $500 fine.

“You have an awful lot to look forward to,” Athey told Catherman. “Use this to your advantage.”

Heath pleaded guilty in the court on April 17, 2017, to one count of distribution of hydromorphone, a third or subsequent offense. Heath received a five-year penitentiary sentence, with three years and eight months suspended, leaving him with one year and four months to serve. Heath also was required to complete two years of supervised probation and pay $100 in restitution. The court dismissed Heath’s second count of the same offense.

Distribution of hydromorphone carries a maximum punishment of up to 40 years in prison with a mandatory minimum of 10 years.

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