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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Courts wrestle on over fate of Spirit Lake drug convict, informant

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

For the second time, a federal court has overturned the sentence of convicted Spirit Lake drug dealer Donna Peterson - this time giving her a lighter prison term due to "extraordinary" help that she reportedly gave to law enforcement officers.

Peterson, 48, pled guilty to conspiracy to manufacture and distribute meth within 1,000 feet of Spirit Lake High School.

In September, 2005, she was sentenced to 68 months in prison.

The government protested that decision, saying that sentencing guidelines call for 135 to 168 months in prison for such a crime.

In August of 2007, the circuit court of appeals ordered the sentence vacated, saying the district court judge had relied on improper factors in giving the woman such a short time time in prison. A resentencing was ordered.

Yet at the resentencing hearing in October of 2006, the district court again sentenced Peterson to the same 68 months.

The circuit court of appeals again vacated the sentence, one month later, and ordered still another resentening.

According to the appeals court, the district court erred in deciding that the help the woman gave to police in drug efforts does not justify giving her a sentence that is less than half the minimum proscribed by the guidelines.

The date has not yet been reset for the second resentencing hearing.

Peterson was listed as a witness in a high profile drug trial involving Jesse Wendelsdorf, who had also been accused but aquited in the death of Sprit Lake toddler Shelby Duis earlier.

Court documents indicate that numerous factors were taken into consideration is applying a reduced sentences, such as the truthfulness of infromation provided by the woman, potential risk to her and her family, and such external issues as her own drug addition and depression issues.

The case was prosecuted by an Assistant U.S. Attorney, and the case involved numerous local and regional agencies, as well as federal drug enforcement, immgrations and customs, Marshal's service and even the National Guard.

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