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Convicted Trafficker Nicholas Conner Sentenced To Four Years In Prison

on December 7, 2017 - 9:40am

Nicholas Conner awaits sentencing Tuesday in the First Judicial District Court. Photo by Maire O'Neill/


By Maire O’Neill
Los Alamos Daily Post
Nicholas Conner, 35, of Los Alamos will serve four years in prison following sentencing handed down Tuesday by First Judicial District Judge T. Glenn Ellington. He is convicted of five counts of trafficking of methamphetamine.

Conner is one of seven people arrested and charged following Operation Spring Cleaning, a drug sting conducted last March by the Los Alamos Police Department.

Judge Ellington imposed the maximum sentence of 45 years in prison and suspended 41 of those years. He also ordered five years of supervised probation and the mandatory two years of parole.

Assistant District Attorney Kent Wahlquist asked for the maximum sentence of six years under a plea agreement. He reviewed Conner’s prior criminal history beginning in 2011 when he was arrested for driving while intoxicated and refusing testing. During a search of his car, Wahlquist said a firearm and drug paraphernalia were found. While Conner was on probation for that first DWI, he was riding a motorcycle and crashed it. His blood alcohol level tested a .20 and police found methamphetamine in his pocket.

“I was the prosecutor in that case and I thought that DWI treatment would hopefully be sufficient, so he pled to the DWI, I dismissed the felony possession and had him do treatment for that second DWI and he was still on treatment for the first one,” Wahlquist said.

In October 2013, while still on probation, Wahlquist said Conner was charged with felony drug possession. He was in Los Alamos County, against the terms of his probation, and was being watched by the Los Alamos Police Department who believed he was selling drugs. When LAPD arrested him on the probation violation, Conner admitted to dumping a bag of drugs, which contained methamphetamine, heroin, Ecstasy, syringes and spoons.

“In this case it was five counts. Four of those counts are based on controlled buys with a confidential informant. One of them is possession with intent to distribute with evidence that was found on the search of his house. Three of the controlled buys happened at his house and one happened in his car away from his house,” Wahlquist said. “His son was present at the three buys at his house. During two of the buys, his girlfriend at the time, Amanda Osborn was there with her two kids. During these buys the CI (confidential informant) was wearing recording equipment and officers could hear the defendant yelling and cussing at the kids.”

Wahlquist told the Court that during the search of the house, Conner was passed out in his bedroom. He said officers knocked on the door, announced their presence and it was Conner’s son who came and opened the door to let the officers enter the home. He said officers cleared the house and during that entire time, Conner never woke up and that when they got to his bedroom door it was locked and Conner didn’t hear them knocking. They eventually had to kick the door open and wake him up. He said officers found 4.5 grams of methamphetamine on his bed and four spoons with .7 grams of meth on them in the nightstand next to the bed.

“We see from this incident that he’s putting his kid in danger. He’s putting his girlfriend at the time’s kids in danger. He’s using meth with children present and he’s passed out leaving his son who was nine at the time to open the door and let police in,” Wahlquist said.

Wahlquist said that in the DOC diagnostic evaluation, while giving his view on the incident offenses, Conner said he was just helping out a friend when he gave the CI drugs, that he’s not a big time dealer. Wahlquist said that’s a contradiction on what Conner told police when he was arrested, which was that he would sell drugs to several people.

Wahlquist said in the report, Conner had said Osborn was not as significant to him as he was to her and reported that she used methamphetamine and needed to be in recovery.

“The reason she needs treatment is because he is the one feeding her addiction and again, he would feed her addiction with her kids there as well,” Wahlquist said.

He said Conner mentioned that he had been going to church for two years.

“He did these things while going to church. Church is not helping him. He was still using in front of children,” Wahlquist said and went on to describe Conner’s lack of success with probation. He said Conner needs inpatient treatment and the best place to make sure he is getting that treatment is in the Department of Corrections.

“We need to make sure that when he gets out, we don’t have to deal with him again,” Wahlquist said.

Defense Attorney Jonathan C. Miller said told the Court he didn’t know Conner at the time of the incident but believed he was a different person. He said Conner had made every Court appearance and had not once tested positive during the past year. He said he has taken more calls from Conner than from any other client in the course of his career and that he has been a very passionate advocate for his own defense. He called Conner one of the most intelligent clients he has ever represented.

Miller said Conner has a great deal of potential and has shown great concern for his son. He said prior to the incident, church did not prevent Conner from getting into trouble but that since then, he believes he’s sincere in his Christianity and his faith.

“The fact that he has been successful during the pendency of this case indicates to me that he would do well on probation,” Miller said.

Miller said the consequences of diagnostic evaluation had been very severe for Conner, that he had lost his car and is on the brink of losing his house. He suggested treatment programs and probation as a way for Conner to “keep his environment together and continue to have contact with his son”.

In response to appeals for mercy from two friends of Conner who spoke on his behalf, Wahlquist said it seemed like Conner had been leading some kind of double life. He said his concern with that other life he is leading at home, exposing children to drugs, feeding other’s addictions and feeding his own addiction.

Given the opportunity to address the Court, Conner told Judge Ellington that immediately following his March arrest, he had taken steps to begin his recovery. He said he has been clean for 263 days and has been sober from alcohol since 2013. He said during the 53 days he was in Los Lunas for evaluation he was offered drugs on multiple occasions but was strong enough to say no and turn the drugs away.

“My time in Los Lunas was by far the darkest days and hardest days of my life. I’m ready and eager to continue putting my life back together with my son, my family and my church family,” he said. “I am deeply sorry for those lives my poor choices and decisions impacted,” he said.

Prior to sentencing Conner, Judge Ellington told him that in some ways he is different from many of the defendants that come to his court for sentencing and in some ways he is exactly the same.

“You’re the same in that most of the people that come before this Court are basically the product of their own environment, their own upbringing, the trauma they sustained when they were young and the trauma they sustained when they were older and how they did or didn’t deal with that,” Judge Ellington said. “…Most of them come from environments where there was disfunction in the family, where there were very negative things that happened to them.”

“I’m a bit older than you are. Back in the day when I was a young person, we used to break up the world into users, dealers, pushers and traffickers. I know from my own life experience that most people who use deal a little bit – they need to cover their own habit – buy more if they can to cover their habit, cut it up and sell it at a profit to cover their own usage,” Judge Ellington said.

He said that may have been the case for Connor when he got caught the first time in 2013 with methamphetamine.

“You then had the opportunity to learn what it took to be clean and sober – you went through drug court without a hitch – so you know on an intellectual level what it is you need to do to remain clean and sober,” he said. “For some reasons, you have made decisions against that information, against that experience ... you were clearly dealing.”

Judge Ellington also addressed a statement Conner made in his evaluation report concerning Osborn and a CI in the case.

“They seemed to have no value to you. Contrary to your statements that you thought you were doing someone a favor, the exact opposite is true, and you knew it. With respect to Amanda (Osborn), you were in a parasitic relationship where in exchange for her time and presence, you were her dealer, her connection,” he said. “This CI knew where to go for drugs ... you weren’t exactly a casual acquaintance or friend. You were a known quantity and it didn’t happen once, it happened several times over several days.”

“Most concerning is the scenario where they came to serve the search warrant with your child present in the home unsupervised while you were out of it locked up in the back room,” Judge Ellington said. “This is where your history of conditioning, your life decisions have brought you. What’s described in your own history is far less than what (your son) has been exposed to. Where do you think he’s going to end up?”

“Children will live through horrible situations and still love their parent and want to be with that parent above all else,” he told Conner. “From a parent’s perspective, I’m offended to use that as a rationalization or justification for criminal behavior.”

“You’re not here because you’re a drug addict. You’re here because you made decisions that affect other people. You were dealing. You were trafficking in meth. All the positive things everyone said about you are probably true but so is that fact and that it happened on more than one occasion over a span of about four years is concerning to me because in the intervening period you did not do anything about it,” Judge Ellington told Conner.

“This isn’t just about you, it’s about (your son), it’s about the community. I believe at this moment you are sincere. I’ve had many, many of what I call jailhouse conversions. People, while their liberty is taken away from them, have a revelation to walk the straight and narrow. Very few people are actually able to do that because the history, all that has brought you to this moment doesn’t just go away tomorrow,” he concluded before announcing his sentence.