December 22, 2014

Partly sunny

Woman’s family petitions judge for leniency in teen’s heroin death

Iraq war veteran Heather Graham was found guilty in August of felony charges that she provided the heroin used in a teenager’s fatal accidental overdose last year. (PHOTO PROVIDED)

Iraq war veteran Heather Graham was found guilty in August of felony charges that she provided the heroin used in a teenager’s fatal accidental overdose last year. (PHOTO PROVIDED)

More than a thousand people have signed an online petition urging a judge to consider drug treatment instead of prison for a woman found guilty of providing heroin that resulted in a Medina teenager’s fatal overdose.

Heather Graham, 31, was found guilty Aug. 5 of corrupting a minor with drugs and complicity and conspiracy to traffic heroin, second- and fifth-degree felonies.

At her sentencing hearing on Sept. 18, Medina County Common Pleas Judge James Kimbler could sentence Graham to prison for up to 10 years.

Kimbler found Graham guilty after a three-day trial in August. Kimbler passed judgment because Graham waived a jury trial.

According to testimony at the trial, Graham met 17-year-old Brittnee Johns — a fellow addict — at a Narcotics Anonymous meeting in Medina. Prosecutors said Graham gave Brittnee heroin in May 2013 when they returned to Medina after spending a day in Cleveland.

Brittnee was found dead in her Medina home the next morning, just days before she was to graduate from Medina High School.

Medina High School student Brittnee Johns, 17, was found dead in 2013 in her Canterbury Lane townhouse of a drug overdose.

Brittnee Johns

Graham’s mother, Leslie Jones, started the petition on two weeks after the judge announced his verdict. The petition had reached about 1,050 signatures as of Tuesday.

Jones and the petition supporters are asking Kimbler to forgo prison and put Graham in an in-patient treatment center to help her overcome addiction.

Graham told the judge during her trial she became addicted to opiates after she was injured by an improvised explosive device while serving in Iraq. She was honorably discharged in 2005 and was prescribed pain medication that sparked her addiction, she said.

“This kid’s been through hell,” Jones said. “I’m not making excuses for her heroin use, but there are reasons behind these things.”

On the petition page, Jones pleaded with Kimbler to have mercy on her daughter.

Heather Graham is escorted out of a Medina County courtroom on Tuesday after Common Pleas Judge James L. Kimbler found her guilty in the heroin overdose death of  17-year-old Brittnee Johns in May 2013.(LOREN GENSON / GAZETTE)

Heather Graham is escorted out of a Medina County courtroom in August after Common Pleas Judge James Kimbler found her guilty at trial.(GAZETTE FILE PHOTO)

“The conviction has already ruined her life,” Jones wrote. “She will be a convicted felon for the rest of her life.

“What purpose does prison serve? I am pleading to the court for mercy for Heather.”

On Tuesday, Jones urged members of the community to support her daughter.

“She’s really not a bad person,” Jones said, “and she deserves a second chance like all of us.”

Jones isn’t the first to send a petition to Kimbler.

In September 2013, Kimbler recused himself from the case of Terry Boyle, who was awaiting trial on charges that she attempted to kill her young son. Seventy-nine people had petitioned Kimbler to drop the charges against her.

He said Boyle’s petition could be considered “ex parte,” an improper legal communication where one side in a case speaks to a judge about a case without the other side present.

Contact reporter Nick Glunt at (330) 721-4048 or Follow him on Twitter @ngfalcon.

  • buzzards27

    While Graham’s military service and injury might mitigate her own use of heroin, it doesn’t excuse her providing drugs to another. Never mind that that action caused the death of another. Graham’s criminal conduct should not be ignored during sentencing.

  • Duck2

    I agree

  • Disgusted

    Brittnee used because Brittnee wanted to use! Stop with the vengeance people! Putting Heather in prison will not bring Brittnee back! smh

  • Exaddict

    One life is no more valuable than another! Help this girl instead of sending her to prison!

  • JustGeorge

    Her military service shouldn’t count? Wow, I’ve heard it all now!

  • Advocate

    Unfortunately, Britnee Johns made the decision to use and she ended her own life by her decision. Graham needs help and prison is not the answer. I personally have no faith in the judicial system . . . murderers have gone free on technicalities and on their celebrity.

  • Hobo4626

    Britnee used and made the decision to use herself. Heather did not make that decision for her, Heather needs treatment not jail.

  • Anonymous

    Seriously? This woman committed a crime! She was found guilty and now she gets to do time. It’s not vengeance – it’s called justice!!!

  • Sherri Cansler

    Reading these threads and I can only SMH at some of the comments. I think we are missing the point of the difference between “justice” and “treatment”. If Heather goes to a treatment facility she is not getting off without any sentence. She will be sentenced to a facility for an indeterminate amount of time and will be monitored by the court system. She will have other things she must do in order to fulfill her “justice to society”. She’s not walking away. I do agree that her military service shouldn’t come in to play here as she didn’t join in order to be involved in the life of drugs so it should have no bearing. It didn’t play a hand in her decision making (whatever that may have been) concerning Ms Johns. She is to be commended for her service on it’s own merit and it shouldn’t equate to this case. I’m pretty sure the people who are calling for Heather to be sentenced to prison wouldn’t be so adamant if this were their child and if you are, then I will pray for your parenting compassion as you obviously have none. Neither punishment will bring back Ms Johns, who in her own right, chose to use and end her life. That’s right, she chose to end her life. Any time you do ANYTHING that could result in your death and you do it by choice, you are choosing to end your life. No one else is responsible for that choice making no one else responsible for your death. Heather will have to live with the fact that her actions may have inadvertently resulted in someone else’s death and that will be her “justice”. She will never get away from that fact and she will never be able to close her eyes and sleep peacefully again. Internal torment is the worst kind so I would say she will have paid her price by the time she leaves this world. She needs help not bashing. Her family isn’t asking for the moon…. they are simply asking for a star to save their child. Any mother/father would do the same.

  • America Joe

    What about pfizer and all of the other drug companies that kill thousands annually. I do not see them being held accountable for the drugs they deal. So why hold this woman accountable? This is not a cartel member that is delivering pounds of heroin to the area. It is a tragic story of two woman addicted and the outcome of addiction period. There is no intent to harm when delivering exactly what someone asks for. The teen asked for and received heroin. Her death is sadly on her shoulders and hers alone. Increase the penalties for dealers, delivery people for drugs and see what the outcome is. You will only get more violence when you toughen penalties and laws pertaining to drugs. Have we not already lost enough people to this foolish drug war? She would most likely not have overdosed if the heroin was produced in a government sanctioned facility.

  • Justme

    Brittnee commited a crime by using heroin too, MORON! Get your facts straight!

  • Sickofstupid

    No, Brittnee caused her own death. Guess she got her justice too! She’s dead now.