By T.J. Pyette
About 30 potential jurors were sent home this morning after a woman accused of criminal distribution of imitation dangerous drugs reached an agreement with prosecutors.
During the jury selection process, state prosecutor Daniel Boucher offered Jodell Downhour, 40, of Havre a deferred prosecution.
The offer came after prosecutors realized that the state may not have called enough jurors for the trial. Rather than face a mistrial as more and more potential jurors were disqualified during initial questioning by lawyers, Boucher decided to go with a deferred prosecution arrangement.
As part of the agreement, the state will not prosecute Downhour for a period of one year, during which she must submit to random drug testing and remain law-abiding. If Downhour complies with those terms, the state will dismiss the charge pending against her.
"In consideration of the circumstances," Boucher told the court, "the state believes it is in the best interest of justice" to defer prosecution.
Downhour told the court she would abide by the conditions of the agreement for the one-year period.
The charge stemmed from an incident in August 2001 in which Downhour was accused of selling imitation dangerous drugs to a Tri-Agency Task Force informant, a criminal complaint said. Downhour collected $250 from the informant for a white, rocky substance she told the informant was one-eighth ounce of methamphetamine, the complaint said.
In October of 2001, a chemist at the Montana State Crime Lab determined that the substance was really compound vitamin C.
District Judge John Warner accepted the agreement and apologized to the jurors for the "inconvenience." Warner told jurors that the deferred prosecution was an acceptable resolution to the charge.
If Downhour violates the conditions set by the state, she will face prosecution, Boucher said, which carries a maximum penalty of up to five years in prison and a $50,000 fine.