Elkhart resident sentenced on eight felony drug charges

CASSOPOLIS — A woman that prosecutors said was “a danger to the community” has been sentenced to probation.

Cass County Circuit Court Judge Mark Herman sentenced Denise Ann Flora, 44, of the 58000 block of Terrace Lane in Elkhart, to 30 months probation and 28 days in Cass County Jail on eight felony drug charges, including possession of methamphetamine and intention to deliver.

Flora pleaded guilty to the charges during a March 19 court appearance.

The charges stem from events that took place on Oct. 29, 2017, on the corner of US-12 and M-62 in Edwardsburg, where Flora was found with substantial amount of methamphetamine.

These events took place two days after Flora had been sentenced to the Swift and Sure Probation Program on separate charges. The Swift and Sure program places an individual on probation with the stipulation that if they do not successfully complete the program, they will go to prison. The program requires close monitoring as well as frequent drug and alcohol tests.

Cass County Prosecutor Victor Fitz argued that Flora should receive prison time for her crimes, saying that she was a danger to the community.

“Sometimes. I feel we place too much emphasis on the individual and not enough on public safety,” Fitz said. “There is truth to the fact that someone can be a clear and present and continued danger. This is one of those cases.”

The amount of methamphetamine Flora was found with at the time of her arrest — 32 grams — was the most methamphetamine Fitz had seen in a single arrest during his time as prosecutor, he said. He added that the amount of methamphetamine she was carrying that the potential to get many people within Cass County addicted to the drug.

“This was hundreds of doses of meth. Thousands upon thousands of dollars. This is a drug deal,” Fitz said. “I think the most important thing here today is the public safety. This is a major drug deal, just two days after she was ordered by this court to stop doing this kind of stuff. … She wasn’t just making meth for personal use. She was making meth for sale.”

Cass County Probation Agent Sharon Underwood disagreed with Fitz’s recommendation, saying that she believed that Flora would be successful on probation, and that already Flora has completed several programs within the Swift and Sure Program. Though Flora was arrested while in the program, Underwood said that, as Flora had only been in the program for less than two days when she was rearrested, Flora had not yet had the support systems in place to help her manage her addiction.

“This is why we have Swift and Sure. We are trying to keep people out of prison that we can manage within the community,” Underwood said. “She has been managed in the community and has not longer been a risk to the public since she started this program. … This program is for these high-risk offenders that continue to break the law, because in prison, we don’t have these programs or support systems.”

For her part, Flora said she wished to stay in the Swift and Sure program, saying that it is helping her to turn her life around and that she is now six months clean.

“The Swift and Sure Program has been a blessing that has actually saved my life,” she said. “I understand that it is a privilege. … Since being in the program, I have learned many tools and applied them to my life. I continue to be grateful every day.”

Ultimately, Judge Herman decided to follow the recommendation of the probation department, saying that he believed Flora could be successful in the Swift and Sure Probation Program. However, Herman did warn Flora that should she violate her probation again, she would be sent to prison.

“Since your arrest on new charges, you have been very ardent and diligent to invest yourself into the Swift and Sure program. By all reports I have seen, you are a model participant,” Herman said. “But you need to know where you are at. The guidelines for these felonies calls for a minimum of 22 years in prison. I have never given anyone a second chance at Swift and Sure when I am confronted with guidelines this high. But what I have seen and the dedication you have done since your relapse leads me to stick out my neck and take a chance on you.”

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