CHRISTIANSBURG — The next-to-last of 23 defendants to be sentenced in Montgomery County’s long-running Operation Crankdown methamphetamine distribution case asked Tuesday to be sent to drug rehab instead of jail — so she could continue to care for her mother, who she said had less than six months to live.
“I don’t want to disrespect her by going to her funeral in an orange jumpsuit,” said Thelma Renee Keister, 48, of Montgomery County, who in January pleaded guilty to possessing a Schedule II drug.
Circuit Court Judge Robert Turk had heard a similar request in December from Keister’s son, Brandon Michael Keister, who also was convicted in the case. Brandon Keister, 33, told the judge about GED and parenting classes that he’d taken in jail and said he wanted to live a life without drugs and care for his daughter and his grandmother, who he said was in hospice care.
Turk said in December that he was impressed by Brandon Keister’s determination and that he was going to give him a lower sentence than what he’d planned — 22 months behind bars instead of at least three years, with Keister to receive credit for the more than 13 months he’d already served.
On Tuesday, it was Thelma Keister’s turn to be sentenced by Turk. She said that in the two years since her arrest, she had passed numerous drug tests required by a probation officer. Keister said she spent her time caring for children and grandchildren, and for her mother, who she said was nearing the end of her life.
Keister acknowledged drug convictions in her past but said they were caused by misunderstandings and relatives’ using her to fill fake prescriptions. Keister said she was convicted last year of being drunk in public but denied being intoxicated — she was found guilty, she said, only because she was not able to get a ride to court to contest the charge.
Keister said that she had looked into drug rehab programs and that there soon would be openings. She asked to be ordered to attend classes.
Attorney Matt Roberts of Blacksburg, who represented Keister on the drug possession charge in the Crankdown case, said that the charge came only from having a bag with meth residue in it. Keister’s involvement included “no significant plotting,” Roberts said.
Attorney Fred Kellerman of Christiansburg, representing Keister on violating probation from a 2010 conviction, noted that she’d had no problems for five years before her 2018 Crankdown arrest.
Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Jennifer Wolz asked the judge to impose at least the year in jail that was the low end of the range recommended by state sentencing guidelines.
“Her whole history indicates a person who does not deserve leniency,” Wolz said.
Turk sentenced Keister to two years of incarceration, to be suspended after she serves one year. He also convicted her of a probation violation, revoked 12 years and 20 months of prison time that was suspended from an earlier case, then said it would be re-suspended after Keister served an additional three months.
After her sentence was pronounced, Keister told the judge that she knew of a house where her mother could live, but that its owner was away. She asked if she could wait until Friday evening to report to jail so she could make arrangements to move her mother to the other house.
Yes, Turk said, adding, “Don’t be late.”
The last Crankdown defendant, Terry Wayne Miller, 57, of Giles County, has a sentencing hearing set for next week. A jury convicted him in October on two drug conspiracy charges and recommended he be given 16 years in prison.
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