Brenda Golden, Examiner, 8/26/12
After fighting for justice for over a year and a half, at the end of July 2012, Patricia Spottedcrow, a young mother, thought she would finally find her way home to her children, who are now 11, 6, 4 and 3 years of age. The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board approved her parole unanimously on April 16th 2012, and the approval signed by Governor Fallin on July 19th, 2012 with the stipulation that Patricia serve120 days in a half-way house.
Spottedcrow’s case gained national, if not global, attention as the poster child of extreme sentencing by judges who go unchecked in the court systems. Her case is indicative of why Oklahoma leads the nation in locking up women and remains dominant in cases of racial discrimination toward minorities in sentencing. Ms. Spottedcrow is enrolled with the Cheyenne and Arapaho Nation and is of African American descent.
In late 2010 the judge in Kingfisher County gave Patricia a10 year prison sentence for selling $31 worth of marijuana. She never in her wildest dreams thought that by taking a blind plea and throwing herself on the mercy of the court would result in such drastic results as a prison sentence. Two years was added to her sentence at the time she was taken into Department of Corrections (DOC) custody for possession of marijuana. So she began a 12 year sentence at Eddie Warrior Correctional Center in Warner, Oklahoma, roughly 200 miles away from her mother, family, four small children and community.
Dee Starr who is approximately 50+ years was awarded sole custody of Spottedcrow’s four small children Koby age 11, Jayanna age 6, Jayalah age 4 and and Jasalyn age 3. She was also given outrageous fines and probation for the same crime as her daughter. Dee works at the truck stop at $8.00 an hour and struggles to keep the family together since Patricia was incarcerated unexpectedly. She makes about $200 a week. Due to the distance and financial constraints she and the children were able to see Spottedcrow only a few times since her incarceration at Eddie Warrior and totally missed spending the last two Holiday Seasons with her in 2010 and 2011.
So they were ecstatic when the Governor signed Patricia’s parole papers in July 2012 and especially when she was moved to Hillside Correctional Center (HCC) in Oklahoma City on July 24th to serve the last 120 days of her sentence before being set free on probation. At least now Dee and the Spottedcrow kids could see Patricia on Sundays when they are able to scrape together gas money.
Dee visited her daughter Patricia Spottedcrow at HCC on August 5th for the first time in months, and for only the 3rd time in person since Patricia’s incarceration. Then on August 19th, just a week ago, Dee took Patricia’s children to visit her there and it was a traumatic experience. That day as they left HCC the children cried and cried so heartbroken, it was just too hard to take, so Dee vowed that she would never take them to visit Patricia in that place again. And after hearing them cry for their mom even more since, she told the kids and family, they would just wait for Patricia to come home in a few months and she’d go see Patricia by herself; “At least Patricia will be home in time for the Holidays to be with all of us” she told them.
All those dreams shared by Dee, Patricia, the Spottedcrow children, and the world, were shattered following the allegations by the District Attorney David Prater’s office on August 8th that the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board violated the Open Meetings Act and released ineligible inmates by law. Governor Fallon issued a moratorium on all paroles sometime Friday afternoon August 24th yet to be confirmed by her office or staff.
According to Patricia Spottedcrow’s mother, Dee, someone on the staff at Hillside Correctional Center went to Spottedcrow around 4 pm that day. They told her that her community privileges had been revoked and she would not be allowed visitor or phone privileges over the weekend because she was moving. They could or would not tell her where she was going. When Patricia was given phone privileges later that day, Friday, she called her mother, Dee Starr and through sobs informed her of the news. “I don’t know what is happening,” she said and told her mother she did not think she would be able to call her because her phone privileges were suspended.
Crying and upset, Dee immediately called Patricia’s attorney, Laura Deskin. “Did you hear about Patricia?” she asked her. Ms. Deskin was shocked, no she said, this was the first she heard that any parole moratorium issued by Governor Fallin would even affect Patricia Spottedcrow. It was her understanding that most of the concern was about the offenders classified as the 85 percenters’ release, Patricia is not part of that class. “And of course I got the news too late in the day to call the Governor’s Office, the office was shut down by that time” she said.
That same day, in response to an ongoing request for allowing Spottedcrow’s release to attend Native American religious ceremonies in the community, at 5:58 pm, a DOC employee wrote to an OKC White Bison Representative via e-mail, “Due to her (Spottedcrow’s) crime of Possession of Controlled Dangerous Substance in the Presence of Minor, she is not eligible for community placement (i.e. not to be placed at HCCC). The parole stipulation to complete 120 days community level work release made her eligible. Now that Pardon & Parole has placed a hold on her stipulation, she is no longer eligible pending the final decision.”
Deskin, earlier this month went on record publicly in support of the Parole Board and Governor Fallin’s approval of Spottedcrow’s parole and why the case is the type worthy of early parole in the interest of justice. But as of Sunday, August 26, late, she has yet to learn officially or given notice of any change in Patricia’s status. “The District Attorney’s Office set out a whole list of about 51 other peoples’ names in their allegations against the Pardon and Parole Board,” she said, “we would hope that all 51 had their stipulations placed on hold just like Patricia’s were and everyone else treated in the same manner, but we don’t know.”
Ms. Deskin called several Department of Corrections facilities over the weekend attempting to find Patricia without success. She does not know where Spottedcrow was moved to, nor does she know the legal status of Spottedcrow’s parole or what the “stipulation hold” actually entails. “David Prater alleges that the Parole Board did things in secret, well what about what is going on with Patricia right now? I would call that pretty secretive” she says. Adding, “All of this was done in secret; where Patricia is and what is happening to her now is being done is secret. It is so unfair to Patricia, Dee and especially her children.”
She further said, “That was the first I heard that Patricia’s status would be affected if the Governor issued a moratorium. The Governor had already signed off on Patricia’s early release with conditions. I did not think that could or would be taken back. My understanding was that the real concern was with ‘85 Percenters’ who had been given early release. Patricia is not one of those people.”
Dee has not heard from her daughter since that fateful call of Friday, “I am so upset, the last we heard from Patricia she was crying so hard and did not know what was going to happen to her next.” The family themselves are emotionally wrought from the sorrow of worrying and wondering about what is going on and where their beloved family member is now. “We thought the nightmare was almost over and the end was in sight, only to have the unimaginable happen unexpectedly” she said. She does not know when she will hear from her daughter again or where she was moved. But the hardest part is telling the children. She says, “How am I supposed to comfort and reassure these little ones concerning their mother if I don’t know where or how she is?”
Good point Dee.
Patricia Spottedcrow DOC # 622641
Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin’s Office: 405-521-2342