Ten-year sentence in crime ‘too serious’ for probation

WAILUKU – A Kihei woman arrested after police reported finding more than 1 ounce of methamphetamine, $13,000 cash and drug notes in a search of her residence was sentenced Tuesday to a 10-year prison term.

Caroline Koppen, 51, had asked for a chance on probation so she could “rebuild my life.”

But Deputy Prosecutor Timothy Tate argued for the prison term, citing both her drug crimes and her actions while her case has been pending for more than two years.

“The crime is too serious to warrant probation,” Tate said.

Originally charged with first-degree methamphetamine trafficking, Koppen had pleaded no contest to second-degree promotion of a dangerous drug, as well as third-degree promotion of a dangerous drug and possessing drug paraphernalia.

Police executed a search warrant for Koppen’s residence May 18, 2010, finding 38 grams of methamphetamine in her bedroom, seven methamphetamine pipes in a dresser and $3,000 cash in a hollowed-out portion of a lamp on the dresser, Tate said. In the garage, police seized three manila envelopes containing $10,000 cash, he said.

Police also found what appeared to be a drug notebook containing names, phone numbers and dollar amounts, Tate said, and found additional drug notes in her purse.

In arguing for probation for Koppen, her attorney Ben Lowenthal said that she has consistently acknowledged her drug addiction. “What is in dispute is her participation in drug dealing,” Lowenthal said.

Koppen told officers that others were involved, but police “become so fixated on Ms. Koppen they let other people at the house go,” Lowenthal said.

Koppen’s “traumatic past,” including her “horrifying childhood,” pushed her toward drug use and other problems, he said.

Koppen had tried to be admitted into the Maui Drug Court program of treatment and supervision as an alternative to prison but was denied admission, Lowenthal said.

Tate said Koppen, who originally faced a 20-year prison term, was responsible for the crimes. “She can’t blame anybody else for what she did,” he said.

He said Koppen’s drug dealing wasn’t in dispute, but “she’s in denial of it.”

After being released pending investigation when the search warrant was served at her home, Koppen was again found with methamphetamine on Sept. 9, 2010, when police Crime Reduction Unit officers approached her for being parked in a no-parking zone at the Kihei boat ramp, Tate said. He said officers didn’t know there was a grand jury warrant for Koppen’s arrest stemming from the earlier search.

At the boat ramp, police recovered three plastic bags containing methamphetamine and two glass smoking pipes with methamphetamine residue, according to court records.

Tate said Koppen initially had been released after her bail was reduced. But her bail was revoked after multiple violations including missing a drug test and not providing a urine sample for testing, Tate said.

While Koppen’s case was pending in the spring of 2011, she “provided a urine sample determined not to be human urine,” Tate said.

“This kind of conduct is not someone who’s seeking treatment,” he said.

In sentencing Koppen to prison, 2nd Circuit Judge Joseph Cardoza said it was important for her to focus on her future.

“You have the opportunity to do something positive, but you have to give yourself a chance,” Cardoza said.

Koppen already has been incarcerated for more than two years, her attorney said.

* Lila Fujimoto can be reached at lfujimoto@mauinews.com.