By JOSH NEWTON
A judge on Thursday revoked a woman’s previous 20-year suspended sentence and ordered her to serve the entire jail term with the Department of Corrections.
Sherry Ann Degase, 52, appeared before District Judge Darrell Shepherd not only for a preliminary hearing on an August 2011 arrest, but for a subsequent request by prosecutors to revoke a previous suspended sentence.
Degase was given a 20-year suspended sentence in 2005 for unlawful possession of a controlled drug, possession of a prohibited weapon, and unlawful possession of drug paraphernalia.
Then in August 2011, Tahlequah police arrested Degase at Love’s. She was later charged with bringing contraband – a loaded firearm – into a jail after a felony conviction, and possession of firearms after conviction or during probation.
Degase also faced federal charges for the firearm and is already serving 30 months in the federal system.
During testimony at the preliminary hearing this week and last, Tahlequah police officers said Degase was arrested Love’s in August 2011 when she passed out inside. She was later transported to the Tahlequah Police Department, where Officer Pam Bell was asked to conduct a pat-down of the suspect.
Degase was later taken to a cell to change into jail clothing. Bell testified during the preliminary hearing Thursday that she found it odd when Degase asked if she could turn around to change her pants. Bell said she allowed Degase to turn around, and Degase used one hand to hold up her underwear and the other to pull her pants off.
Bell took Degase back into the department’s booking area after she had changed clothes, and began a secondary pat-down. Bell said she noticed something hard in Degase’s abdominal area, and Degase began trying to struggle with her. Officers later discovered Degase had a loaded revolver in her underwear.
Degase took the stand Thursday and admitted she had taken four Xanax pills prior to her arrest at Love’s. She said she went to Norris Park and took the revolver from her kids, who might have been planning to use it as retaliation for a previous shooting initiated against them.
She admitted to Assistant District Attorney B.J. Baker that she knew she shouldn’t have the gun because she was on probation, but said she was trying to protect children and intended to take it and give it to a woman with whom she was living at the time.
Degase said she stuck the gun into the front of her pants and went to Love’s. She claimed she doesn’t remember what happened from that time until she awoke in the county jail after her arrest. She told Baker she believes if an officer had asked her whether she had a gun, she would have given it to him or her.
“I would rather go to jail than my son,” Degase admitted on the stand Thursday.
Degase’s attorney, Jim Cosby, asked Shepherd to cut his client “a little slack,” saying she didn’t intentionally take the gun into the jail, and is already being punished by serving federal time.
When considering the revocation request by prosecutors, Shepherd said he first expected to hear Degase had taken the firearm into jail to give the gun to another inmate, or for some other similar reason. But after hearing the testimony, Shepherd said he realized that wasn’t her intent.
But he also said Degase’s possession of the firearm while on probation “is a very serious thing,” and involved a public place and potential safety issues to police officers. He also noted it was her third felony, and then decided to revoke her 20-year suspended sentence in full.
Degase was also bound over for trial in district court on charges of taking the gun into the jail and possessing the firearm after a previous conviction.
Shepherd set a preliminary hearing for Feb. 4 at 9 a.m. on November 2011 charges against Degase, accused in that case of attempting to sell or distribute pseudoephedrine. She has pleaded not guilty on those charges.