The Oklahoman, Oklahoma City
A judge Thursday showed leniency to a drug-using mother of seven because she had surgery to prevent further pregnancies.
Summer Thyme Creel, 34, was sentenced to a year in federal prison and three years on supervised release for passing counterfeit checks.
She was ordered to pay $15,246 in restitution.
Creel voluntarily underwent the medical procedure in November after the Oklahoma City federal judge suggested it in a scheduling order.
“She will receive a shorter sentence because she made that decision,” U.S. District Judge Stephen Friot said before announcing the punishment.
Friot on Thursday also defended his sterilization suggestion, saying the U.S. Supreme Court “has yet to recognize a constitutional right to bring crack- or methamphetamine-addicted babies into this world.”
In his order last June, the judge called Creel a habitual user of crack cocaine and methamphetamine. He wrote in that order she had given up her parental rights to six of her seven children and likely had used illegal drugs while pregnant.
He then wrote he would consider at sentencing medical evidence Creel had undergone a sterilization procedure “if (and only if) she chooses to do so.”
Creel had faced up to 16 months in federal prison under sentencing guidelines intended to keep punishments uniform across the country. Judges do not have to follow the guidelines, though, and the maximum possible punishment for Creel’s offense was 10 years in prison.
The unusual order — first reported by The Oklahoman — attracted national and international attention. The judge has been both praised and condemned.
“When I read the order, I was horrified,” Lynn Paltrow, founder of the National Advocates for Pregnant Women, told The Washington Post. “We find it highly unlikely that this judge has asked any man how many children he fathered and used that in his sentencing determination.”
The judge Thursday did not directly comment on the public criticism.
He did state his order last year had made clear that “the decision as to whether to be sterilized would be for Ms. Creel and Ms. Creel alone to make.”
Mom-of-seven, 34, who has given up parental rights to six of her kids gets STERILIZED https://t.co/Ppof87TWFk
— Daily Mail US (@DailyMail) February 7, 2018
He also explained he would not have counted it against Creel if she had decided against the procedure.
“She would have come before the court in the same posture as any other habitual criminal,” he said. “Her fertility would have been a non-issue.”
The judge chided a prosecutor for telling him in a sentencing memorandum Creel has “a fundamental constitutional right to procreate.”
The prosecutor in the memo had cited a 1942 U.S. Supreme Court decision that found unconstitutional Oklahoma’s Habitual Criminal Sterilization Act.
“This is rather curious,” the judge said of the prosecutor’s position on the issue. The judge then pointed out the 1942 decision had involved involuntary sterilization. He said the prosecutor apparently overlooked that fact.
Creel was punished Thursday for her involvement in a fraudulent check-cashing ring that used information from stolen mail to manufacture counterfeit checks. “Theirs was a systematic and successful identity theft scheme,” the judge said.
She pleaded guilty last year to one federal counterfeiting offense. She admitted she had passed a $202.22 counterfeit check in 2014 at a Walmart in Moore.
She has prior theft and counterfeit check convictions in county courts but always received probation.
She originally had sought probation in her federal case. That possibility ended when she was arrested for passing a $121.71 counterfeit check at a Hobby Lobby in Midwest City a month after pleading guilty.
She also has tested positive for methamphetamine use — twice — since her guilty plea. The second time, the judge had her jailed pending sentencing.
Her defense attorney, Brett Behenna, told the judge Creel has had a tough life and became caught in a cycle of poverty. He said she turned to illegal drugs as an escape.
Her father died when she was a teenager and her mother later abandoned her, the attorney said. She dropped out of high school.
Creel was forced to work as a stripper in North Carolina by an abusive boyfriend, the attorney said. That relationship ended after having four children together when the boyfriend fatally shot another man and was sent to prison for murder, the attorney said.
“I’m sorry for the mistakes that I made,” Creel told the judge.
Another participant in the scheme, Amber L. Perkins, 43, was sentenced last March to five years in prison and ordered to pay $159,753 in restitution.
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