Passenger gets year for drugs in car trunk


A North Carolina woman who was a passenger in a car with about $1,000 worth of marijuana in its trunk has been sentenced to one year in the Harford County Detention Center.

Francine Matthews, 24, of Jamestown, N.C., pleaded guilty to possession of marijuana with intent to distribute before Harford Circuit Judge Cypert Whitfill on Thursday.

Matthews was a passenger in a car driven by another North Carolina woman that was stopped for speeding along Interstate 95 in the early morning of Feb. 20, court records say.

When a state police trooper searched the car, he found 140 grams of marijuana, 1.2 grams of cocaine, and two handguns tucked under the seats of the vehicle, records say. The cocaine is worth about $100.

A scale, empty bags used for packaging drugs and rolling papers were also found in the car, police said.

"The cold, hard fact is that this defendant was involved in transporting drugs," Assistant State's Attorney Scott Lewis said. She's one that helps feed the machine."

Judge Whitfill sentenced Matthews to five years in prison, but suspended all but one year of the sentence. She also was ordered to complete a drug counseling program and three years of probation after she is released from jail.

In addition to possession with intent to distribute, Matthews was charged with possession of marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia, conspiracy to distribute drugs, transporting handguns and use of a handgun in drug trafficking.

Those charges were dropped as part of a plea agreement. Had she been convicted of all charges, Matthews would have faced FTC up to 21 years in jail.

A co-defendant, Jamey Mae Jones, 32, of High Point, N.C., is awaiting trial in Circuit Court.

Matthews was traveling from New York with Ms. Jones, who had bought the marijuana, according to Michele Nowak, a public defender representing Matthews.

The defendant, a first-time offender with two children and a history of drug abuse, was unaware the drugs were in the car until the women were on their way back to North Carolina, Ms. Nowak said.

Matthews considered not traveling with the woman, but didn't ++ have enough money to buy a train ticket, Ms. Nowak said. Most of her money, the attorney said, went to buying marijuana and cocaine for her own use.

L "Obviously, it was extremely poor judgment," Ms. Nowak said.

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