WAILUKU - A Makawao woman who said she wanted to show her grandchildren that she can change was sentenced Nov. 29 to a one-year jail term after being arrested with crystal methamphetamine last year in a police investigation into drug dealing.
Leila Ah Yen, 50, who has already been jailed for nearly six months, could be released after another three months to enter a long-term residential drug treatment program, as part of the sentence imposed by 2nd Circuit Judge Peter Cahill.
He placed Ah Yen on five years' probation.
"She knows she has a problem, she's admitted it and she's willing to get into treatment," Cahill said, after questioning Ah Yen.
The judge asked her how she would benefit from treatment.
She said she would spend more time with her family after treatment and "show my grandchildren I can change."
Ah Yen had pleaded no contest to third-degree promotion of a dangerous drug, possessing drug paraphernalia and fourth-degree promotion of a harmful drug. The prosecution dismissed charges of attempted second-degree methamphetamine trafficking and possessing drug paraphernalia in exchange for her pleas.
The charges stemmed from a police Crime Reduction Unit investigation into drug dealing that resulted in search warrants for Ah Yen and her residence, said Deputy Prosecutor Tracy Jones.
When officers executed the warrants Oct. 21, 2011, they found 2.22 grams of methamphetamine packaged for sale on Ah Yen in her underwear, Jones said.
When Ah Yen was questioned by officers, "she did admit she is a drug dealer," Jones said. "She admitted she was also a drug user."
Ah Yen described how she would get two "teens" - each one-sixteenth of an ounce - of methamphetamine each week and earn $350 in profit for each "teen," Jones said.
While not objecting to Ah Yen's sentencing as a first-time drug offender, Jones objected Ah Yen to giving her a chance to keep the drug convictions off her record. "She's a drug dealer. That doesn't serve society," Jones said.
Deputy Public Defender Wendy Hudson said Ah Yen was making changes to get her life back on track after the arrest.
"This was a huge event in her life," Hudson said. "Her husband and her son were also arrested in the same incident."
Ah Yen admitted she violated conditions of her earlier release on bail by trying to submit a fake urine specimen for drug testing.
While denying her request to keep the convictions off her record, Cahill agreed to sentence Ah Yen under a law allowing for probation instead of prison for first-time drug offenders.
She was ordered not to consume alcohol or illegal drugs.
The judge also ordered Ah Yen to testify truthfully if called as a witness in the case against her son Ronson Vares, 22, who is facing charges including prohibited possession of a firearm and ammunition, second-degree commercial promotion of marijuana and possessing drug paraphernalia in connection with the police search at the residence.
According to court records, Ah Yen told police that the 18 mature marijuana plants and 23 seedlings found at the residence belonged to her son and husband. In a locked storage shed on the property, police reported finding a Mossberg pump-action shotgun that had been reported stolen in a burglary, as well as seven shotgun shells and 64 long rifle rounds.
Ah Yen's husband, Galen Vares, 51, pleaded no contest last month to a reduced charge of second-degree promotion of a detrimental drug, with an agreement that he will be released from jail last week after serving one year. His sentencing is scheduled for March 6 before 2nd Circuit Judge Rhonda Loo.
* Lila Fujimoto can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.