Brownville woman who gave drugs, alcohol to minors sentenced to one year, faints in court

Tanya Donnelly, who was sentenced to one year in prison only moments earlier, was taken to Mayo Regional Hospital in Dover-Foxcroft after fainting in Piscataquis County Superior Court on Friday, June 1, 2012. Donnelly was being assessed by the emergency department at the hospital on Friday afternoon.
Tanya Donnelly, who was sentenced to one year in prison only moments earlier, was taken to Mayo Regional Hospital in Dover-Foxcroft after fainting in Piscataquis County Superior Court on Friday, June 1, 2012. Donnelly was being assessed by the emergency department at the hospital on Friday afternoon. Buy Photo
Posted June 01, 2012, at 12:20 p.m.
Last modified June 01, 2012, at 6:30 p.m.

DOVER-FOXCROFT, Maine — The Brownville woman convicted of furnishing marijuana and alcohol and giving a child a prescription drug during a party last year for her daughter and friends was sentenced to the mandatory minimum of one year in prison and a $1,000 fine Friday.

Tanya Donnelly, 37, who is on oxygen for a variety of health problems, ran out of oxygen after the sentencing and fainted, according to her attorney, Dale Thistle.

Donnelly was taken out of Piscataquis County Superior Court on a stretcher and taken to Mayo Regional Hospital. Thistle said she did not appear conscious when he saw her.

A spokesman for the hospital said Donnelly was brought into the emergency department. He said late Friday afternoon that hospital staff was waiting for law enforcement officials to take her back into custody.

On March 24, 2011, Donnelly threw a birthday party for her daughter, who invited several friends.

At some point during the party, several of the 12- and 13-year-old girls testified that Donnelly brought the girls from her father’s house, where the party started, to her house in order to smoke marijuana. According to the testimony of several witnesses, at least three of the girls smoked marijuana while others watched.

Later, the party returned to Donnelly’s father’s house, where Donnelly bought two six-packs of malt beverages and served them to the kids mixed with Kool-Aid, according to witnesses.

After one of the girls appeared to have too much to drink, according to a witness, she went to a neighbor’s house, where she wanted to fight another girl who wasn’t at the party.

To calm her down, Donnelly gave her a prescription drug. Witnesses differed on what was given to the girl: Klonopin, an anti-seizure medication or Clonidine, a medication used to treat high blood pressure and hypertension.

“Since the birthday party, my parents won’t let me go to other birthday parties because they’re afraid it will happen again,” one of the girls said at Friday’s sentencing.

“I lost a lot of trust from my family because of this,” said another girl who was at the party.

District Attorney R. Christopher Almy said he was pleased with Superior Justice William Anderson’s decision to impose the mandatory minimum sentence instead of a three-month sentence, which Thistle asked for.

“I think the judge imposed the correct sentence. It’s appropriate for the circumstances. She deserved what she got and we’re happy with it,” Almy said outside of court.

Almy said the sentence will serve as a deterrent for other parents not to provide alcohol at parties for minors.

“You take the towns of Milo, Brownville and Dover-Foxcroft, all of them have campaigns that discourage alcohol being furnished by parents,” said Almy. “It’s called ‘parents who host lose the most.’ This defendant fit right into that pattern. She got a year in jail for it, and that’s what should happen.”

Thistle said he was disappointed the judge didn’t taken Donnelly’s illness into account at sentencing.

“It’s a serious, serious illness that she has,” said Thistle of his client. “I don’t know whether she’ll be able to receive the medical attention she needs in the hands of the Department of Corrections.”

In addition to pulmonary hypertension, Thistle said Donnelly suffers from COPD, asthma, fibromyalgia and is dependent on oxygen.

Thistle said he didn’t believe he has a basis to appeal.

In his argument for a lesser sentence, Thistle said Donnelly has no prior criminal history.

“This is her first brush with the criminal justice system,” Thistle said to the judge before sentencing. “She is not your typical hardened criminal. She is dumb, or did something dumb.”

“It’s very bizarre,” said Anderson. “She’s not the type of defendant you’d think would commit these types of offenses.”

The girl who was given the prescription drug also spoke of how dangerous it was for Donnelly to give her the pill.

“I could’ve been allergic to the drug she gave me,” said the witness. “I could’ve died. My parents don’t trust me anymore. A lot of kids have looked at me differently because I drank the alcohol.”

Donnelly apologized for what she did and asked the judge for a lighter sentence.

“I made a stupid mistake. I didn’t mean to do anything criminal,” she said, her voice cracking. “All I want to do is live my life with my kids as quiet as I can be.

“I promise you’ll never see my face in this courtroom again,” she said.

Thistle said Donnelly would start serving her sentence immediately.

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