PEABODY — A Peabody woman who talked her way out of a stiff jail sentence — for the second time — last summer was back before a judge yesterday in Salem Superior Court, accused of violating her probation by selling heroin.
And while Judge Timothy Feeley was sympathetic toward Joanna Snyder during the hearing last August, there was little indication of that yesterday. He even appeared to question the need for the crutches Snyder was leaning on in the courtroom.
"I don't see any indication in the police report that she was on crutches three weeks ago," during what police allege were two sales of heroin to an undercover detective, Feeley said.
Snyder, 47, of Peabody, had been scheduled to receive a 21/2-year jail sentence from Feeley last August after she pleaded guilty to a string of crimes including identity fraud, larceny, forgery and stolen property.
They were only the latest entries in a criminal history that includes more than 180 adult court appearances and three aliases, and that stretches to 16 pages, including a federal forgery conviction and numerous other similar offenses. A prosecutor, Christina Pujals Ronan, had been asking for three to four years in prison.
But during her sentencing last summer, Snyder appeared contrite, explaining that her actions were the result of untreated bipolar disorder. She promised Feeley that she was a changed woman who wanted to be a part of her children's lives and who would carefully follow her lithium regimen.
Feeley, who said in court he was "impressed ... with the efforts Ms. Snyder has made," decided to suspend the jail term and put her on five years of probation.
At the time, he was unaware of a nearly identical argument Snyder had made in a letter to a federal judge about to sentence her for violating her probation in a federal forgery case back in 2004. In that case, too, the judge gave her a more lenient sentence of one year at a minimum-security facility in Salisbury, instead of a trip back to federal prison.
Snyder repaid that judge's kindness by escaping six months later while on work release.
Last month, Snyder and a Roxbury man were both arrested and charged after a monthlong investigation into heroin distribution in Peabody.
Snyder allegedly made two sales of heroin for $120 each to an undercover officer, one of them in a convenience store parking lot and the other at her home at 14 Aberdeen Ave. She is now facing charges in Peabody District Court of heroin distribution and distributing drugs within a school zone.
And her probation officer in the identity fraud case now wants Feeley to revoke her probation as a result of the new arrest. The officer, David Barretto, filed a formal request for a hearing where he'll ask that she be sent to prison.
Snyder, leaning on her crutches, asked, "Do you have a chair? I'm going to fall down," the first of several dramatic announcements she made during yesterday's proceeding.
Her lawyer for the day, Lynette Leos, tried to persuade Feeley to release her while she waits for her final probation violation hearing, saying Snyder still lives in Peabody with her husband and her pregnant, 19-year-old daughter — though court papers in the new case say she claimed to be a widow.
Snyder told her lawyer that she needed the crutches because she had recently undergone surgery to repair injuries from a long-ago car accident, and she said she needs more surgery.
Feeley appeared to question the account, flipping through the police report a second time and observing that there's no mention anywhere of her being on crutches.
She also claimed that she was not getting her medication, including lithium, Seroquel and methadone, at MCI-Framingham — an assertion that surprised her probation officer.
"She never told me she was on methadone," he told the judge.
After the probation officer suggested that sending her home on an electronic monitoring bracelet would be putting her right back at the scene of the crime, Snyder insisted to her lawyer that she is about to move.
When the judge was still not moved, Snyder spoke up again: "Your honor, can I speak? The Hells Angels girls are after me. ... I'm not getting any meds. I been beat up." She went on to pull up a strand of her recently highlighted hair, suggesting that someone had done something to it at the prison, though it was unclear exactly what.
"I've made my ruling," a stone-faced Feeley responded, before going on to schedule a status hearing for next Monday.
"Do I have to be here, your honor?" Snyder pleaded, complaining about the length of the van ride from Framingham. Though even her lawyer suggested she should be present, Snyder continued to protest.
"I can't travel, you guys," she said. "This hip is killing me. ... I can't come, I can't."
Feeley relented, allowing her to remain at the jail on Monday but insisting that she be brought in for all other hearings in the case.
And he refused a request that she be brought to court in a car; she'll have to ride in the van, as the other inmates do.
Courts reporter Julie Manganis may be reached at 978-338-2521 or email@example.com.