BANGOR, Maine — Terra Whalen of Hampden, a 26-year-old mother of two toddlers, was sentenced Thursday morning in U.S. District Court to six years in prison and three years of supervised release for her role in the theft of firearms and possession of stolen firearms.
U.S. District Judge John Woodcock noted Whalen’s rare status as a “category six” criminal at such a young age more than once while handing down his sentence. The sentence was almost double that of her boyfriend, who was given a 37-month sentence last November despite a more active role in stealing the guns and later selling them in November 2010.
“Category six is usually reserved for hardened criminals and highly unusual for someone this young,” said Woodcock, referring to Whalen’s 29 criminal offenses — including nine for theft and three for assault, one against an officer — since the age of 15.
Whalen accompanied boyfriend Troy Bryant, 35, when he stole a boat in Hampden and then drove to Bradford, where he broke into a residence. She then, according to court documents, helped Bryant carry items including three rifles — a .351-caliber Winchester, a .22-caliber Remington Model 552, and a .22-caliber Marlin Model 60 — to their vehicle, left the boat at the Bradford residence, and later stored two of the rifles at her home in Hampden.
One of the rifles is still unaccounted for, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Joel Casey, the prosecuting attorney. Casey said there was no evidence that Whalen had anything to do with the sale of the stolen firearms.
Whalen’s defense attorney, Marvin Glazier of Bangor, asked Woodcock for a sentence of 48 months, given her status as a mother of two children, ages 1 and 3, the remorse she showed in her handwritten address to Woodcock on Thursday, her guilty plea last May, and because she earned a GED and was three months shy of finishing a cosmetology school program.
Casey requested a 110-month sentence, noting her standing as a career criminal and long-term drug user, the damage she has done to her own family, and the need to protect citizens from her.
“She’s been given numerous second chances by judges in three counties and even the births of her two children failed to change her pattern of behavior,” said Casey. “Society needs to be protected from her.”
Donna Whalen, Terra’s mother who is raising her daughter’s two children, spoke on her daughter’s behalf.
“This is really hard. … This is a lot to take in, as some of this information is new to me,” Donna Whalen said, often pausing in mid-sentence while choking back emotion. “She has done well and can do well when she’s with the right people.”
Whalen addressed the court and apologized for her actions while reading a handwritten speech.
“Clearly I have made many bad decisions. I’m truly sorry for the shame I’ve brought to my family, especially my mother,” Terra Whalen said, taking time to wipe tears from her eyes. “My addictions have really made me realize how much time I’ve wasted in my life. I am strongly motivated to start my life over with my children.”
Woodcock reviewed Whalen’s history, saying she started using heroin and cocaine at age 18, and then primarily cocaine from age 20 until 2010, and estimating that her drug habit cost about $80,000 a year.
Woodcock also referred to her actions following the birth of one of her children, when she left the hospital shortly afterward, met Bryant, got “loaded up on drugs” and returned to the hospital, where hospital workers had to physically prevent her from taking her child.
“I just don’t understand how your love for drugs could outweigh your maternal instincts,” Woodcock told Whalen. “I have this contrast between the person you have been and the person you could be.”
Woodcock also ordered Whalen to take part in a comprehensive, 500-hour drug treatment program and a work force program after prison release, or 20 hours of volunteer work a week instead of a job.
In return for Whalen’s guilty plea for knowingly possessing, selling or disposing of stolen firearms, two other criminal counts against her were dropped.
Whalen cried while hugging her mother, who was also crying, before being handcuffed and escorted out of the courtroom.