Sherry Johnston, Levi's mom, pleads guilty, begins prison term

SHERRY JOHNSTON: Plea deal calls for 3 years in prison for trying to sell the painkiller Oxycontin.

August 19, 2009 

PALMER -- Sherry Johnston pleaded guilty Wednesday in state Superior Court to one count of possession with intent to deliver the prescription painkiller OxyContin.

Johnston, 43, is the mother of Levi Johnston, who is the father of former Gov. Sarah Palin's grandchild. She lives in Wasilla.

She is scheduled to be sentenced in November. The plea deal calls for her to be sentenced to five years in prison, with two years suspended. Her attorney, Rex Butler, said the deal includes three years of probation after prison.

"That's pretty," Johnston said as a court officer placed pink handcuffs -- a gift from an Arizona sheriff -- around her wrists. Court officers can use their own handcuffs, and the pink ones are a trademark of Sheriff Joe Arpaio in Phoenix's Maricopa County, along with the pink boxer shorts he issues to jail inmates.

Johnston was convicted of a Class A felony, which carries a presumptive sentence of five to eight years in prison. The plea deal calls for a shorter prison stint because she possessed a small quantity of the drug and had no previous drug-related convictions.

Assistant District Attorney Rick Allen said it's not unusual for defendants with mitigating factors like Johnston's to get half the minimum sentence.

Butler said Johnston will be jailed at Hiland Mountain Correctional Center in Eagle River while awaiting sentencing and that she could serve out her sentence there. He hopes to persuade the state to let Johnston serve her sentence at home, instead, with ankle monitoring, Butler said.

Johnston was charged in December with six felony drug counts involving a prescription painkiller. According to police affidavits, she received OxyContin pills in the mail, and then sold 10 pills to a police informant three different times in October and November 2008. Meetings were held in the Wasilla Fred Meyer and Target parking lots, arranged via cell phone text messages.

Butler said in May that his client would plead guilty to the single felony count in exchange for dropping the other charges. But he first wanted to work out an arrangement with the state Department of Corrections, to ensure Johnston's medical needs could be met.

Johnston in May said she suffers chronic pelvic pain stemming from past surgeries, for which she takes the painkillers. She is being treated for pain with two medical devices installed under her skin: one to deliver very small amounts of medication directly into her spinal fluid and a second, an "epidural stimulator" that blocks pain.

Find Rindi White online at or call her in Wasilla at 907-352-6709. The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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