Petersburg man sentenced in heroin and meth case
Lawrence (Lori) Christiansen was sentenced this week after admitting guilt for charges related to the distribution of heroin and methamphetamine.
The state’s case against Lars Christensen, who was also facing charges of two counts of Misconduct Involving a Controlled Substance in the 2nd and 3rd degrees, was dismissed in February.
Federal and local authorities arrested Lars and his brother Lawrence Christensen in January after receiving and handling a package containing 25 grams of heroin and 36 grams of methamphetamine addressed to their mother, Neva Christiansen, from the post office.
According to the criminal complaint, Lars told police he didn’t know what was in the package but “…knew it was probably illegal. Lars admitted to being in possession of the package,” the complaint states.
It was after police arrested Lawrence and Lars and placed them in a holding cell that Lawrence told police his brother didn’t have anything to do with the charges against them
Lawrence appeared before Superior Court Judge Carey Tuesday, April 26. Some factors the judge considered were that the crimes were of a criminal commercial enterprise and that the drugs were transported into the state. He also weighed mitigating factors including the fact that this case was Lawrence’s first offense.
District Attorney James Scott presented the case against Lawrence and told the court that while it’s common to impose lighter sentences on young and first time offenders, Lawrence didn’t fit that model.
“…you have a 63 year old guy who’s not addicted to drugs who just wants a good way to make money and he knows there’s lots of kids in Petersburg and young people that will use methamphetamine and heroin,” Scott said. “So he sets up a plan to import it under his 86 year old mother’s name so he doesn’t get caught. I think most people would say well that guy you gotta throw him in jail.”
Scott argued that Lawrence tried to “tie the noose around his mother’s neck” in an effort to assault his character and added that it’s possible some imprudent law enforcement officers could have used that to arrest Neva.
Lawrence’s defense attorney Eve Soutiere said Lawrence early on admitted his own guilt and that he never tried to use his mother to potentially get out of trouble. Judge Carey summed up what he thought about the claim.
“If anybody in this town ever thought that Neva Christiansen was importing heroin and methamphetamine they’d be committed to a mental institution,” Carey said.
Soutiere addressed mitigating circumstances and asked that Lawrence be sentenced with one year to serve with two years on top of that suspended because of the small quantity of drugs and because he’s doesn’t have a criminal history.
“Second and I think more importantly is Mr. Christiansen’s complete lack of criminal history,” Soutiere said. “He’s almost 64 year’s old. He has no prior criminal history. This case kind of presents a defense attorney with a conundrum.”
Scott and judge Carey disputed the claim that Lawrence obtained a small amount of drugs.
“I am constantly dealing with young people in this town whose lives are being disrupted by heroin…it’s epidemic and we’re talking about kids from so called good families too,” Carey said. “It runs the gamut and the harm in this community from the importation of heroin and methamphetamine is never minor.”
Scott conceded that Lawrence’s lack of criminal record was “remarkable” and Carey echoed that comment and it played into his sentencing.
Judge Carey gave Lawrence and opportunity to speak and he said that he responded poorly to financial and personal problems.
“I stepped into a realm I should not have stepped into and without really truly thinking about the damage it can do to other people,” Lawrence said. “I want to put the world of methamphetamine and heroin in the rear view mirror and not having anything more to do with it, and I can now see how wrong I was and how sorry I am for what I did.”
In his sentencing remarks Carey added the case presented interesting issues because of the characteristic of the community, Lawrence and his original co-defendant Lars.
“Lars is known in this community of having a long-standing substantial drug problem and I’ve never heard of this defendant, Lawrence Christiansen, ever having any involvement,” Carey said.
Scott earlier in the hearing spoke to the fact that he received three calls from Petersburg residents angry that the state dismissed the case against Lars. Lars has prior criminal history and if he had been found guilty of these felony charges he would have faced significant time in prison.
“I know that the fraternal bonds, family bonds are strong,” Carey said. “That’s just my observation and it does provide possibly one explanation for what went down but I’m here because Mr. Christiansen (Lori) has come forward. He did accept responsibility.”
Carey gave credit to Lawrence for accepting responsibility quickly and the fact that he has no criminal history but he did express condemnation of how the crime happened.
“The fact that this package was supposedly addressed to Neva is appalling and I echo Mr. Scott’s comments on that,” Carey said. “It brings into question the family bonds I’m talking about because no person should ever have done that.”
Carey sentenced Lawrence to four years in jail with two and a half years suspended and three year’s probation, less than Scott argued for but more than the defense. While on probation, Lawrence is also banned from having contact with Lars because he is a prior felon.