By Wendy Holdren
For the Daily Telegraph
BLUEFIELD — Gabriella Brown pleaded guilty Tuesday before U.S. District Judge David Faber to obtaining a quantity of oxycodone by fraud from the Beckley Police Department evidence holding room.
Brown, 31, of Beckley, will be sentenced April 22 and faces a maximum of four years in prison, a $250,000 fine, and a year of supervised release.
Her attorney, Dwane Tinsley, said he felt pleading was in Brown’s best interest to save the time, expense and stress of a criminal trial.
Brown was employed by the Beckley Police Department as an evidence technician and had access to drug evidence from May 2011 through the time of the incident.
She admitted to obtaining 22 oxycodone pills Aug. 17 after an officer placed them in the evidence holding room. When the officer came to collect the evidence, 22 pills were missing.
Because evidence control was compromised, Raleigh County Prosecuting Attorney Kristen Keller announced Aug. 22 that any drug-related cases involving evidence housed at the BPD in the past 15 months would be dismissed.
Keller estimated that hundreds of cases were compromised because of this incident.
U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin entered a criminal information charge against Brown Oct. 6.
“She admits as part of the plea agreement that she has stolen narcotics on a number of other occasions,” Goodwin stated.
Goodwin said he could not put a number on the total amount of narcotics Brown acquired, but added that he did not anticipate additional charges.
During the plea hearing Tuesday, Brown reviewed her educational and medical history.
She graduated high school, earned her bachelor’s degree, then obtained a master’s degree from West Virginia University. Brown stated that after having her second child in 2010, she was diagnosed with post-partum depression.
She added that she suffered from panic attacks, anxiety, and depression, and was later diagnosed with attention deficit disorder.
Additionally, Brown told Judge Faber she is still being treated for major depressive disorder and opiate addiction; she takes an anti-depressant, suboxone therapy and ADD medication daily.
Faber then reviewed the criminal information charge for the record.
After he explained Brown her rights and the rights she would be giving up by pleading guilty to a felony, she entered a guilty plea.
Faber set an unsecure bond of $10,000 and scheduled sentencing for April 22 at 10:30 a.m. in Bluefield.