Alternately weepy and defiant, Shanda Lean Foster denied most of the accusations against her and pleaded for probation Wednesday after a jury convicted her of evidence tampering and possessing methamphetamine.
Frank Griffin, sitting as judge of the 35th District Court, sentenced Foster, 32, to 10 years in prison on the evidence tampering charge and to a concurrent two-year term in state jail on the possession charge.
Jurors returned the guilty verdicts after a short deliberation. Foster elected to have the judge rather than the jury set her punishment.
Prosecutor Sam Moss put on punishment testimony indicating that Foster had several other cases pending against her and that she and the man she was married to lost custody earlier of their three children.
Foster, a slender woman with raven hair that flowed past the collar of a black leather jacket, answered questions from her attorney, Jimmy Stewart of San Angelo. Asking for probation, Foster testified that she has been going to church and trying to find a job. She said she has the support of friends and family.
“Going to church and becoming a Christian again has helped me a lot,” Foster said.
Under Moss’ cross-examination, Foster at times dissolved into sobs and at other times sounded angry and impatient as Moss questioned her.
“How many cases are you out on bond now?” Moss asked Foster.
“Many,” she replied.
When Moss noted that she hadn’t been able to follow the rules of being on bond and stay out of trouble, she responded, “I have not been in trouble for quite some time.”
Foster stood trial on accusations that arose from a July 5, 2008 traffic stop near Lake Brownwood. Department of Public Safety trooper David Stewart stopped a pickup occupied by Foster and her boyfriend, John McDonald, on a traffic violation.
Foster appeared to be trying to conceal items and tossed syringes in the back of the truck’s cab as Stewart began his contact with the pair, according to testimony. Foster appeared to have a small baggie clenched in her fist, and before Stewart could stop her, she put it in her mouth and swallowed it. Stewart told her repeatedly to open her mouth and spit out the substance.
Foster claimed the substance she swallowed was a Xanax tablet, for which she had a prescription. Stewart suspected the substance was methamphetamine, but that was never determined for certain.
During punishment testimony Wednesday, several law enforcement officials and representatives of local businesses told Griffin of their contacts with Foster and the criminal charges that resulted from some of those contacts.
Brownwood patrolman Zane Taylor testified that he made a traffic stop on the vehicle Foster was driving on June 14, 2008. Police found methamphetamine in the vehicle, and Taylor also learned that Foster a felony warrant for claiming a lottery prize by fraud.
The warrant stemmed from an accusation that Foster had stolen lottery tickets from the convenience store at which she worked and cashed them in at another store.
On Jan. 19, 2009, Foster and McDonald were arrested on theft charges after an attempted shoplifting at Wal-Mart, and Foster was also charged in connection with possessing prescription medication with a prescription, according to testimony.
Sheriff’s Capt. Tony Aaron testified that Foster had been implicated in Operation Pillaging. This was an investigation into numerous individuals who were traveling around Central Texas to buy pseudoephedrine from various pharmacies.
Pseudoephedrine is a substance used in the manufacture of methamphetamine.
Narcotics investigators believe Foster bought pseudoephedrine for meth cooks and traded the substance for methamphetamine, Aaron testified.
Foster admitted in her testimony that she committed the theft at Wal-Mart, but denied possessing methamphetamine in the two traffic stops or stealing lottery tickets.
When police found methamphetamine in her vehicle following the June 14, 2008, traffic stop, Foster testified, the substance either belonged to someone else who had driven her vehicle, or it was left over from when she formerly used methamphetamine four years earlier.
When troopers found methamphetamine in her purse following the July 5, 2008, traffic stop, Foster testified, someone had just given her that purse and it must have had methamphetamine in it when she took possession.
Foster also testified that when she and McDonald made back-to-back purchases of several cases of pseudoephedrine at Wal-Mart, as pharmacy logs showed, it must have been because they were sick.
“Is it really that illegal to buy cold medicine?” Foster asked from the witness stand.
“It is if you’re using it to make methamphetamine,” Moss shot back.