"You are, of course, deplorable," Clackamas County (Ore.) Circuit Judge Steven Maurer told the defendant. On the other hand, "you present a very difficult issue," said the judge, who spent several minutes Thursday contemplating whether to send Shawn Vincent Herring to prison.
In 2009, Herring, 21, of Wilsonville, Ore., gave heroin to an underage friend and helped her inject the drug. That led to his arrest and conviction for possession of heroin and meth, and two years of probation.
Herring didn't complete drug-treatment programs and violated probation six times. His probation was revoked in the fall, and he went to jail for 180 days after Oregon City police arrested Herring at a school attended by his 18-year-old girlfriend. An investigation revealed that Herring had provided marijuana and oxycodone to the woman, gave marijuana to her 16-year-old sister and sold pot to a 13-year-old girl, prosecutors said. Officers found marijuana, oxycodone pills, hydrocodone pills and drug paraphernalia in Herring's backpack.
In a plea agreement, Herring pleaded guilty to two counts of delivering marijuana to a minor and one count delivering oxycodone to a minor. A Clackamas County Community Corrections officer wrote a report urging Herring receive treatment and probation, not prison.
"The state was shocked to see the recommendation of no jail," said Clackamas County Deputy District Attorney Alycia Spires, because he committed crimes involving children while he was on probation, and he blew out of three treatment programs.
"This is not an individual who deserves a seventh chance," Spires told Maurer, adding that Herring should get three to six years in prison.
There are 100 reasons Herring didn't deserve probation, defense attorney Jerry Seeberger said, but there was one compelling argument in favor: For the first time, he's in a drug-treatment program and seems to be succeeding.
Maurer spent several silent minutes weighing the arguments.
You are a "poster child" for a prison sentence yet "you show some a glimmer of hope," said the judge. "At the end of the day, given your young age … there is still some hope for salvation or redemption."
On Thursday, Herring was given five years of probation, required to complete in-patient drug treatment then spend several months at a work-release center.
Maurer made it plain that there was a sharp edge to his leniency: "Your actions will have to speak for you."