A Bethalto woman accused of causing two overdose deaths in a month may stay in prison less than a year and a half, thanks to time served and possible good behavior.
Angela Halliday, 28, was sentenced to four years in prison for each of three charges of delivering a controlled substance. The sentences are to be served concurrently, ruled Associate Judge James Hackett on Wednesday in Madison County Court.
Halliday, who already pleaded guilty, has served 15 months in jail awaiting trial. She could qualify for day-for-a-day for good behavior, and only serve an additional 16.5 months in prison, according to Assistant State's Attorney Susan Jensen.
In addition, she faces four years of probation, and likely drug treatment, after her release from prison for a fourth charge of delivering a controlled substance.
"I'm very happy we got a prison sentence and a way for her to change her life if she wants to," Jensen said.
Defense attorney Steve Griffin had asked the judge for probation that would have included a requirement Halliday complete outpatient drug treatment. Griffin declined to comment following the hearing.
Halliday's parents shared a hug with their daughter before leaving the courtroom without speaking to reporters.
Hackett allowed Halliday to deliver a speech prior to her sentencing. Through a stream of tears, she apologized to her family and the community for the choices she made, while acknowledging that she hurt others unintentionally while using heroin, a drug she said causes "collateral damage" that spreads far.
"It's not just a heroin epidemic," she said. "It's a grief epidemic, a blame epidemic..."
Hackett said he took into consideration Halliday's speech but also the statements from the two victims' families who wrote powerfully about their loss.
"This is a sad case," he said.
Jensen had asked for six years in prison because that was the minimum sentence for a conviction of drug-induced homicide. The maximum is 30 years.
Halliday originally was charged with two counts of drug-induced homicide. Those charges were dismissed in June in response to Hackett's ruling in a separate case. In May, he determined the drug-induced homicide law could not be applied in cases when the transfer of drugs occurred outside Illinois.
Halliday agreed to plead guilty to one count of unlawful delivery of the anti-anxiety drug Xanax within 1,000 feet of a church and three counts of unlawful delivery of Xanax within 1,000 feet of a school, Jensen said. Each charge carried a prison term of three to seven years. Halliday was accused of selling her Xanax prescription in order to buy heroin.
In the first case, she allegedly helped provide the heroin to her 27-year-old friend, Benjamin Berkenbile, who died of an overdose April 12, 2011, in his Worden home.
A witness told investigators Berkenbile agreed to drive Halliday and her boyfriend, Joshua Rogers, to St. Louis to buy heroin in exchange for getting Xanax from Halliday. On their way back, both Halliday and Rogers suffered nonfatal overdoses before Berkenbile injected himself with heroin, the witness said.
A month later, a similar scenario played out but this time Brian Beckham allegedly drove Rogers and Halliday to St. Louis to buy heroin from Adam C. Butler, 42. Prosecutors believe Rogers, 30, injected himself with the heroin in Missouri before returning to Illinois, where he died of an overdose May 10, 2011, at a Godfrey motel.
Last summer, Halliday, Beckham and Butler were all charged with drug-induced homicide in connection with Rogers' death.
Because of Hackett's May ruling, Butler's charge was dropped. That same month, Beckham, 32, of East Alton, pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of unlawful possession of heroin with intent to deliver and was sentenced to two years' probation.
Rogers and Berkenbile were among 53 people who died of drug or alcohol overdoses in Madison County in 2011. The dramatic rise in overdoses in the metro-east the last five years was the focus of a News-Democrat series that was published in September.
Griffin painted Halliday as a junkie, not a drug dealer, who has learned from the wrongs of her ways during her time in jail. He cited her college-education, an otherwise clean background and her willingness to take responsibility for her actions for reasons why she should be given probation.
Jensen linked Halliday to the overdose deaths by calling Madison County Sheriff's Capt. T. Mike Dixon to testify about the investigations.
"She was directly responsible for what happened to these individuals," Jensen said.
Dixon said Halliday did not appear to feel guilty for Berkenbile's death when he interviewed her following his overdose.
Her opinion was "it was his choice to do narcotics," Dixon said.
Halliday sang a much more remorseful tune at her sentencing.
"Again I'm so, so sorry that they are not here," Halliday said. "Do whatever you think is best."
Contact reporter Kevin Bersett at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2535. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/KevinBersett