Ex-SLC justice court judge gets 90 days in jail

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TOOELE -- A former Salt Lake City justice court judge was sentenced to 90 days in jail for drug possession with intent to distribute, accused of picking up packages of painkillers for her dealer.

Virginia Ward refused to comment to FOX 13 as she walked in and out of the courtroom. Standing at the podium as a defendant, Ward tearfully apologized to the court for her crime.

"I'm sorry. I know that I hurt the profession, the public confidence and trust in the judiciary, the people who are employed by the judiciary, law enforcement and the defense attorneys who were assigned to me, the defendants who were on probation to me at the time, the people who were in treatment," Ward cried. "I let a lot of people down."

Ward, who has completed rehab, said she was "very glad to be out of that dark place" in her life. Her attorney said she had struggled with a painkiller addiction following a car crash that injured her neck and back.

"She had a legitimate prescription right up to the day she was arrested," her defense attorney, Earl Xaiz, told FOX 13. "But as with her addiction, a prescription's not usually enough to satisfy what your needs become as you take the drug."

Ward was accused of opening a P.O. box under a phony name, and receiving hundreds of packages of prescription oxycodone, then splitting some of the pills with her dealer. She was arrested earlier this year as part of a sting by the Drug Enforcement Administration, which busted up a drug distribution ring stretching to California.

Ward pleaded guilty to possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute, a second-degree felony. She could have faced 15 years in prison, but her attorney asked for leniency. It was her first offense, and she had personal struggles.

Assistant Utah Attorney General Scott Reed asked for six months in jail.

"Mercy should be tempered with maintaining the public trust," he told the court.

Judge Robert Adkins sentenced Ward to 90 days, three years probation, fined her $1,000 and ordered her to undergo monthly drug tests. She was allowed to surrender to the Salt Lake County Jail next week. Attorneys raised concerns about her serving time in that jail, noting that she had sentenced many people to time there when she was a judge.

Judge Adkins allowed her to serve the jail sentence at another facility, provided the Salt Lake County Jail could work out an inmate swap.

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