September 12, 2017 05:23 AM
Beth Freeman has more than 20 criminal convictions, with the first coming in 1987 and the most recent in 2016. But state court records show she has not spent much time behind bars.
Freeman, 54, is now charged with two counts of criminal vehicular homicide in the traffic death of Wayzata police officer William Mathews on Friday. Court records show she was on probation for a 2016 felony drug possession conviction at the time of the accident.
Freeman's convictions range from petty misdemeanors to gross misdemeanors and felonies.
Since 2000, court records show, Freeman has been convicted of four felonies. One was for forgery and three were for drug possession.
Sentencing records show Freeman's actual time served behind bars for the four felony convictions was about a year-and-a-half.
Former U.S. Attorney for Minnesota, Rachel Paulose, said there is a reason for Freeman's short stays in jail or prison.
"This individual, the defendant in this case, has a long history of non-violent criminal behavior," Paulose said. "And the key here is there is no prior evidence that she maliciously engaged in violent behavior toward an individual with premeditation."
Paulose, now an attorney with DLA Piper in Minneapolis, said judges are somewhat constrained by sentencing laws, which are enacted by the Minnesota Legislature. Paulose added Freeman's previous drug convictions were for possession and not the more serious charge of drug distribution.
"Most states, including Minnesota, treat drug possession less harshly than drug distribution," she said. "In fact, many courts, including Minnesota, have set up drug courts to divert the less serious offenders like people who possess illegal drugs."
Paulose said that is why Freeman was out on probation for her 2016 felony drug possession conviction. Probation usually includes required drug and alcohol treatment and abstention.
"Most of these sentences include treatment for the offender and certainly probation would likely include no alcohol or drugs, with the goal of getting these offenders to beat their addictions and become productive in society rather than shuffle them in and out of prisons," Paulose said.
A condition of Freeman's current probation included chemical dependency treatment. She was ordered to refrain from alcohol and illegal drugs, too. Sobriety tests taken by Freeman more than an hour after she struck and killed Mathews allegedly indicate she was on a controlled substance, according to the criminal complaint.
Freeman is scheduled to make her first court appearance Tuesday afternoon. Prosecutors are expected to ask bail be set at $500,000.
Updated: September 12, 2017 05:23 AM
Created: September 11, 2017 09:23 PM
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