Nate Gartrell, EDN
A 34-year-old Eugene woman convicted in January of robbing three different local Bi-Mart pharmacies could be sentenced to a mandatory minimum 70 months in prison under Oregon’s Measure 11 law, court documents show.
But the defense lawyer for Alanna Crabaugh is arguing that Crabaugh’s crimes should be found exempt from Measure 11, and that a lighter sentence should be imposed.
Crabaugh committed six different Bi-Mart pharmacy hold-ups between September and October of last year, each time demanding Oxycontin, Oxycodone, or both. For the first two robberies, Crabaugh pretended to have a gun, and on other occasions, pretended to be a hostage, court documents show.
After being arrested, Crabaugh waived her right to a jury trial, and was convicted by a judge of two second-degree, and four third-degree felony robbery counts. Second-degree robbery involves the use or purported use of a weapon, and is more severe.
Measure 11, which was approved by Oregon voters in 1994, imposes a mandatory minimum sentence for certain felonious, typically violent crimes. A 70-month sentence is mandated for second-degree robbery under the measure, if specific conditions are met, defendants can be found exempt and given lesser sentences.
If no victims in the crime(s) suffered significant physical injuries, the defendant had no prior criminal history, and the defendant’s possession or purported possession of a weapon didn’t cause the victim reasonable fear of “imminent physical injury,” or “imminent significant physical injury,” the defendant qualifies for an exemption from Measure 11 sentencing.
“Robbery is a crime of fear; you have to put somebody in fear to get what you want,” University of Oregon law Professor and former criminal defense attorney Margaret Paris said. “This exemption to Measure 11 is saying, if it’s such a ridiculous situation that the victim really isn’t afraid of you, you shouldn’t be punished as harshly.”
Two of the conditions don’t really apply; Crabaugh had no prior criminal convictions when she was arrested, and none of her victims were injured, because she wasn’t really armed. Whether, and how, the other two factors pertain to Crabaugh’s sentencing is currently a subject of debate between the prosecution and defense.
In a memorandum in support of a reduced sentence, Crabaugh’s attorney Terri Wood argued that Crabaugh’s action’s didn’t put the Bi-Mart clerks in “reasonable” fear of physical injury under the law. Crabaugh held folded up newspaper under her clothing to create a gun-shaped bulge, and handed the clerk a note that said she was armed, court documents show.
In the same memorandum, Wood also asserted that while his client accepted responsibility for the crime, she was “over-prescribed the powerful opiates oxycodone (sic) and Oxycontin,” and eventually developed a severe physical addiction. Both pharmaceuticals are classified as Schedule II drugs, which have a high potential to cause psychological or physical dependency if they aren’t prescribed or taken properly, under the US Controlled Substances Act.
That dependency motivated Crabaugh to rob prescription painkillers from the same Bi-Mart on West 18th Street three times in a one-week period, including on consecutive days. It’s also what led her to drive to a Bi-Mart in Junction City, and another on Royal Avenue in Eugene, and demand painkillers there, alleging she was being threatened by “a man with a gun” to get the drugs.
Less than two weeks later, Crabaugh returned to the first Bi-Mart on West 18th, and again alleged she was a hostage while demanding painkillers. This time, through, Crabaugh took a bottle of placebos.
With assitance from Bi-Mart, Police then tracked and arrested Crabaugh, who quickly confessed to the other robberies and entered into a detox program. Crabaugh has since apologized, via a letter addressed to “Bi-Mart Employees and Management.”
“I cannot put into words the regret I feel for the distress I have caused,” Crabaugh wrote in the letter. “Eugene is my hometown and as such, it deserves far better than what I have given.”
The prosecution, meanwhile, contends that Crabaugh’s representation the she was armed during the first robbery is enough to justify the 70-month mandatory minimum sentence. The Bi-Mart clerk in the first robbery was still “visibly upset” when being interviewed by police, and believed that Crabaugh had a gun, according to court documents.
In the state’s response to Wood’s memorandum, prosecutors argue that Crabaugh’s actions were sufficient to cause reasonable fear, and that “[Bi-Mart clerks] suddenly found themselves in a perceived life or death situation brought about by the defendant’s actions.”
The next hearing in the case is scheduled for 9 a.m. March 20, at Lane County Courthouse, and a sentence will likely be handed down then. If found to qualify Measure 11 sentencing, Crabaugh wouldn’t be eligible for early release or sentence reduction, and instead serve “the entire term of imprisonment,” under Oregon law.
Paris said she wasn’t sure how a judge would rule, that it would likely depend on specific evidence presented by Wood at the next hearing.
“These are complicated situations, and I’m glad they’re taking the time at sentencing to figure out if she should be treated as a Measure 11 sentence or not,” Paris said. “I really think that’s important to pay serious attention to because it’s such a long sentence.”