Troopers: Johnston dodged press to deal 'hillbilly heroin'

Megan Holland
The Associated Press

Players on both sides of an undercover investigation that led to drug charges against Sherry Johnston bumped up against the turmoil visited on Wasilla by the presidential election, according to new information about the case filed in court Wednesday.

An affidavit, prepared by the Alaska State Troopers, says Johnston repeatedly sold OxyContin using text messages to direct customers to department store parking lots where they paid and she delivered. But in one message, according to the affidavit, Johnston complained that unusual media and other public attention was cramping her business:

"Hey, my phones are tapped and reporters and god knows who else is always following me and the family so no privacy," Johnston wrote in a text message to a customer.

Until her arrest, Johnston, 42, was better known as the mother of Levi Johnston, the Wasilla teen who hit the headlines after Gov. Sarah Palin announced her daughter was pregnant and he was the father. Palin made the announcement when she was running for vice president on the Republican ticket with John McCain.

Johnston is charged with six counts of misconduct involving a controlled substance -- essentially sale and possession.

The affidavit says she "did admit to selling her Oxycontin pills to (an informant)."

The affidavit, dated Dec. 22, details how troopers used two informants to collect evidence that Johnston sold OxyContin on Oct. 11, Oct. 22 and Nov. 26. The informants had been arrested themselves on a drug charge and agreed to help trap Johnston.

Trooper-supervised buys were set up by cell phone text messages and took place in Target and Fred Meyer parking lots. On each occasion, troopers charge, she got $800 for 10 pills.

Troopers say that in the text messages, Johnston used the code words ''coffee'' and ''cup'' for OxyContin.

"... there's only so many times I can go for coffee a month. The rest of the time I need to have it at home!" read one message. Troopers said this meant Johnston was willing to sell only so many pills each month and the rest she would keep for her own use.

The affidavit refers to Johnston being under Secret Service protection while dealing drugs, but that appears to be incorrect.

Special Agent Darrin Blackford, spokesman for the Secret Service in Washington, D.C., said that only the governor and her immediate family were protected. Johnston was not under the agency's protection or surveillance, he said.

Troopers later agreed that part of the affidavit was wrong.

"Whenever she was in contact with Palin, that was probably the only time it came into play," said trooper spokeswoman Beth Ipsen.

The affidavit does not explain where Johnston got the OxyContin, a popular painkiller that can only be bought legally with a prescription.

Abuse of OxyContin, often called "hillbilly heroin" and a highly addictive drug, has been on the rise in the country and in Alaska in recent years, according to the federal Drug Enforcement Administration.

After her arrest, Johnston was released on bail. Multiple attempts to reach her Wednesday by phone encountered busy signals.

She is scheduled to be arraigned at the Palmer Courthouse in early January.

Find Megan Holland online at adn.com/contact/mholland or call 257-4343. Stephanie Komarnitsky contributed to this story.


By MEGAN HOLLAND
mholland@adn.com