ST. GEORGE — A wrong-way driver arrested in February with 2 pounds of methamphetamine near the off-ramp of Interstate 15 in Washington City appeared in federal court Friday where she was sentenced to serve more than two years in prison.
55-year-old Cynthia Ceynar, of Glendive, Montana, appeared before U.S. District Judge David Nuffer for sentencing on one count of possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute, an offense Ceynar was indicted on when federal prosecutors picked up the case in March.
The charge stems from a traffic stop Feb. 21 when a Washington County Sheriff’s deputy stopped a vehicle heading south on the northbound off-ramp of I-15 at the Green Springs Road Exit.
According to the report filed in support of the arrest, the deputy noted that Ceynar continued looking toward the rear of the car while he spoke to her, so a search of the vehicle ensued, which is when deputies discovered the methamphetamine.
Following the arrest the defendant was booked into jail in Washington County on second-degree felony possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance and misdemeanor paraphernalia possession, charges that were dropped once she was indicted in federal court a week later. She has remained in custody in Washington County since her arrest.
During Friday’s hearing, prosecutor Stephen Dent represented the government and said their position was to recommend a 30-month prison term, which Dent said was “sufficient but not greater than necessary” to comply with the sentencing factors as set forth in the presentence report.
Dent went over the defendant’s criminal history, and other than a drug conviction from when Ceynar was young, she maintained a clean record until a 2008 conviction.
“She has lived long periods of her life without committing crimes,” he said, “and that’s encouraging.”
Dent also referred to the bodycam footage taken during the arrest and how much Ceynar’s appearance has changed since then.
“There’s a world of difference – she looks much better,” he said, adding there are difficulties associated with addiction that she has had to face, but the long stretches of her life that were crime-free was a factor that weighed heavily on the government’s decision not to seek a long imprisonment in the case.
Dent closed by saying that with the right programing and other rehabilitative opportunities Ceynar can take part in, he is “optimistic she will get out of prison and live a law abiding life afterwards.”
Assistant Federal Public Defender Robert Hunt also spoke during the hearing, saying his client’s decision to sell drugs, which she admitted to during the original traffic stop, was tragic. He said selling drugs “always occurs when someone has an addiction, because there’s not many ways to support it otherwise.”
Hunt went on to say he was also encouraged by Ceynar’s ability to remain law abiding for long periods of time, calling her criminal history “unique” in that respect and saying that given the defendant’s age and her ability to remain law abiding, he believes his client “will not see this court again.” He added that this is the defendant’s first conviction that carried a prison sentence.
“I believe this is a wakeup call, your honor,” he said.
Hunt also said his client would benefit from the Residential Drug Abuse Program, the Federal Prison Bureau’s most intensive treatment program, which is offered at a number of federal facilities but not at all of them.
The facility in Colorado was mentioned as a prison that would not only facilitate with family visitation, as Ceynar’s relatives live in Montana, but also offers the RDAP program.
Ceynar told the court she could be housed in a federal facility in Texas or Colorado, saying she has a dog, but otherwise, it really didn’t matter.
“I don’t really have an address anymore,” she said.
The judge then addressed both parties and said that several factors were taken into account to determine an appropriate sentence, factors which allowed for a deviation from the 10-year mandatory prison term associated with the distribution charge.
Instead, he said, his role was to determine whether the court should follow the recommendations set forth by both sides, taking into account several factors, including the defendant’s history, characteristics and the improvements that both sides mentioned she has made since the incident, in addition to the significant amount of methamphetamine recovered during the stop.
Referring to the amount of narcotics recovered in the case, Nuffer said it results in a “downstream flow of further crime, further transactions and further addiction, which leads to more distribution,” a cycle that repeats itself.
As such, considering all factors present in the case, Nuffer said he agreed that 30 months in a federal prison facility was a “just sentence sufficient but not greater than necessary.”
He then sentenced Ceynar to serve 30 months in prison and recommended a federal facility in Colorado. Upon release, the defendant will be placed on three years of post prison supervision that Nuffer said would also include random drug tests for the entire time she is being supervised, as well as other standard requirements as ordered by the Bureau of Prisons.
Nuffer closed by addressing the defendant and said that while the arrest and subsequent prison sentence “has been something I’m sure you never foresaw,” the defendant now has the opportunity to look forward to a new life that is free from these types of events. He wished her the best in making the changes needed for that new life.
In addition, even though the judge did not see the defendant at the time of her arrest, he said she looked good at the time of her appearance.
“So just look in the mirror and remember what it looks like to be drug free.”
The defendant was ordered to begin serving her sentence as soon as the federal facility was designated. She remains in the custody of the U.S. Marshal in Washington County until then.
This report is based on statements from court records, police or other responders and may not contain the full scope of findings.
Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.