A 26-year-old St. Johnsville woman cried and begged for a chance to avoid prison for her part in a strong-armed robbery attempt at a smoke shop in May in Basom, but the judge hearing her case told her she hadn't earned a chance to be released on probation.
"In light of the violent nature of the crime and the apparent lack of any effort on your part to address your addictions and mental health issues until the day you were to be sentenced, it is alarming," said Interim County Court Judge Emilio Colaiacovo.
Misty Dawn Souza was sent to prison for three and a half years.
Her attorney, Fred Rarick, tried to argue for probation, given her history of mental issues, but District Attorney Lawrence Friedman said that nature of the crime and her criminal history warranted the maximum sentence available under the plea agreement.
"The reasons for a probationary sentence you have presented have been an unconvincing explanation for why the court should show (mercy)," Colaiacovo said.
Souza said she was a drug-addicted baby at birth, that she had been diagnosed with mental health issues at age 11, but instead of giving her the medicine prescribed by a doctor, her mother introduced her to marijuana. A short time later, she said, her father introduced her to crack cocaine.
Dressed in a dress of wide black-and-white horizontal stripes, Souza cried through most of her statement to the court.
"I believe I need help with my mental health issues," Souza said. "I don't want to go to prison. I'm scared. I know what I did was wrong. If I could take it all back, I would."
Souza and Jeremy J. Reynolds, 34, of Johnstown, entered the Smoke Rings Smoke Shop the night of May 20 carrying what looked like guns. Things quickly got out of hand and it was a dangerous and scary situation, Friedman said.
"They pointed what appeared to be real guns at the clerk behind the counter and the clerk obviously became fearful for his life," Friedman said.
Rarick said his client was a person who could be easily mislead and that's exactly what Reynolds did. He also said that Reynolds had slipped Souza a gummy bear laced with acid (LSD), which she didn't know, prior to the robbery.
It wasn't long after the robbery attempt began that Souza fled into the dark woods near the smoke shop where she wandered haphazardly for some time. When she was picked up later, she said, according to Rarick, that she had a bear on her back.
Souza said she has a 10-year-old daughter who is a straight-A student and wants to be a police officer someday.
Colaiacovo told Souza that there will be plenty of opportunities in prison for Souza to get the mental health care and drug treatment she needs, if she takes advantage of those programs.
"It's never too late to become a good example to your child," Colaiacovo said. "I hope avail yourself of the opportunities you will have in prison and start heading in the right direction in life."