BRATTLEBORO -- Having admitted to selling prescription narcotics from her Bellows Falls apartment, Amanda Reed declared that she was "done with that life" and should not be jailed.
"I love my children way too much, and they need me," Reed said Friday in Windham Superior Court Criminal Division.
Judge David Suntag, however, deemed that argument "inappropriate."
"You chose to sell drugs in a house with your children. And you did that over an extended period of time," Suntag said. "If they suffer because of a sentence, it's your doing."
Shortly thereafter, Reed, 29, left the courtroom in handcuffs to begin serving a prison sentence of three months to five years in connection with her guilty pleas to two counts of selling narcotics.
She also is serving a maximum five-day concurrent sentence after pleading to a disorderly conduct charge filed by Bellows Falls police in May.
The drug charges were filed in 2012 and were the result of an investigation by Vermont State Police.
While Reed's past issues with drugs were not in dispute, testimony at Friday's lengthy sentencing hearing painted two very different portraits of the mother of three.
Former friend Christa Harty-Hansen told the court that Reed had "asked me to testify and say that she's a good mom and she wasn't selling drugs anymore."
Instead, Harty-Hansen was called to the stand by Windham County Deputy State's Attorney Steven Brown. She claimed that Reed had continued to deal drugs after her arrest.
"She's always on her phone doing drug sales when she gets her prescriptions," Harty-Hansen said, a statement that drew protest from Reed's defense attorney, James Valente.
Harty-Hansen, who herself has criminal convictions for selling drugs and larceny, acknowledged a personal dispute with Reed. But she claimed she is concerned only for the welfare of Reed's children.
Megan Sheridan, a member of the Vermont State Police Drug Task Force, testified that she arrested Reed in September 2012. At the time, Reed denied any involvement with drugs, Sheridan said.
But recorded phone calls between Reed and her jailed boyfriend contradicted that. Brown played excerpts from those calls, which included thinly veiled references to drug transactions.
At one point, Reed says an acquaintance is "bringing me $140 tomorrow, and I'm just going to sell one of mine hopefully I have enough to last me."
In a later call, she speaks in a panicked voice about her arrest.
"I'm just scared I'm going to lose my kids, and I'm the only thing they (expletive) have," she said.
While saying she denied the charges in an interview with police, Reed also tells her boyfriend that, "I don't even know if my kids were home at the time" of the alleged deals.
In those calls, Reed is often heard speaking sharply to her children and cursing at them. That stood in stark contrast to testimony from Lisa Pitcher, executive director of Our Place Drop-In Center in Bellows Falls, where Reed works part-time.
"She's very calm and caring and obviously takes good care of her children," Pitcher said. "They're always dressed well, clean and seem to be thriving in school."
Pitcher described Reed as conscientious, punctual and "one of my most-reliable employees."
Also testifying in Reed's defense was June Beam, who also has been convicted on drug charges and is on probation.
Beam said she did not believe Reed had sold drugs since her arrest and said her friend has "done a complete turnaround" since she last used drugs.
"She has changed tremendously," Beam said. "She has worked really hard."
Brown, though, argued that Reed worked hard in the drug trade and "was involved in a much larger operation" than her guilty pleas show.
Reed simply "picked up for" her boyfriend's drug business when he was jailed, and the sales did not stop even after she had been charged, Brown told Suntag.
"One would think that once you're charged and arrested that you would immediately stop that conduct," Brown said.
He argued for a prison sentence of one to five years.
Valente, however, said his client is no "criminal mastermind." Rather, he said Reed is a single mother who has been in several dysfunctional relationships and is severely short on cash.
"There is a difference between somebody who steals bread because they're needy and someone who steals bread because they're hungry," Valente said.
But Suntag, noting the content of the jail calls that had been played in court, pointed to a "life filled with constant attempts to manipulate and deceive."
"I actually fear for your children," Suntag said. "They're growing up in a household where their mother is a drug dealer."
Mike Faher can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.