Johnston, alone in court, pleads not guilty

Zaz Hollander

PALMER -- Sherry Johnston pleaded not guilty Monday to six felony counts of possessing and selling OxyContin.

Johnston also asked for and received a public defender, a lawyer paid for by the state. During her first court appearance, the 42-year-old Wasilla woman was alone, with no lawyer or supporters by her side.

Johnston is the mother of Levi Johnston, father of Gov. Sarah Palin's newborn grandson. Her son made headlines in September after Palin announced daughter Bristol was pregnant and Levi was the father.

Sherry Johnston admitted selling OxyContin pills to someone working with investigators, according to an Alaska State Troopers affidavit. Troopers arrested her Dec. 18. She made bail that day. A state grand jury in Palmer indicted her Friday on six felony counts of misconduct involving a controlled substance relating to possession and sale of the prescription painkiller OxyContin.

Johnston looked wan in Palmer Superior Court on Monday. She wore little makeup, a black jacket and jeans, and pulled her long ash-blond hair back into a purple scrunchie.

She is in the midst of a divorce and living on disability payments and child support, she told Judge Beverly Cutler. She and her husband, Keith, started what Johnston described as an amicable separation in May or June.

Her husband pays the mortgage on the home they own, Johnston said. She handles groceries, transportation and utility bills.

She still owes money on medical bills, she said.

Asked by Cutler if she has a job, Johnston replied, "No ma'am, I'm disabled."

As part of her public-defender request, Johnston provided Cutler with a written statement of her financial situation. The judge's comments indicated that the family's assets include several cars and trucks and a camper, as well as their home.

But, Cutler asked Johnston, it appears there's not much cash in the household, "because everything's borrowed to the max?"

Yes, Johnston answered.

Johnston's public defender, Craig Condie, advised her not to talk when approached by a reporter after the hearing. She said nothing.

Johnston may have to repay the state from $500 to $2,500 under a public defender "payback provision" required of defendants with some income, Cutler said.

Her next court appearance is scheduled next month, with trial set for the end of March.

Find Zaz Hollander online at or call her in Wasilla at 907-352-6711.