Stephanie Nodd -- #04172-003

26 Years -- Crack Conspiracy Conspiracy

February 26, 2007 - NBC 15 News (AL)

Special Report: "Bad Company"

Stephanie Nodd, prisoner of the drug war
(MOBILE, Ala.) You tell your daughter to watch the company she keeps. A local woman has spent 16 years, and will spend ten more, learning that lesson the hard way. Another local woman also paid a hefty price and is now dedicating her life to making sure this doesn't happen to others.

Stephanie Nodd came home to Trinity Gardens last fall. Released from federal prison for a weekend to attend her mother's funeral. It gave her time to spend with her 15-year-old daughter, Elizabeth Nodd, who has never had her mother at home. "I got her picture sitting on my dresser," Elizabeth says. "So every morning, it's like, 'Hello' to the picture, and so it was real good to have her here to say hi to in person."

After three days, Stephanie Nodd flew back to a federal prison outside Orlando to serve the remaining ten years of her sentence.

In October of 1990, 23-year-old Stephanie Nodd, with no criminal record, was sentenced in Mobile's federal court to 26-years minimum in prison. The mother of four, with one on the way, was convicted for being part of a crack-cocaine conspiracy. Among the five men who were involved in the conspiracy was her boyfriend of only six weeks.

Albrecht: "You knew he was a drug dealer?"

Nodd: "Yes sir, I knew."

But what she didn't know was that he and two others would finger her and that she, despite there being no physical evidense against her, would get more prison time than the three men combined.

"I only knew him six weeks," Nodd says. "In six weeks I got caught up for thirty years."

Mobile's Dorothy Gaines knows Stephanie Nodd's story all too well. "I'm not afraid to tell you, I went to prison," Gaines tells us. "I spent six years in federal prison."

She too was convicted in a drug conspiracy involving her boyfriend. Her sentence was later commuted by President Clinton. She now tries to enlighten young people, especially girls, about the company they keep.

"You know it really hurts me, Peter, to have so many women incarcerated," Gaines tells NBC 15's Peter Albrecht. "My main message to the women is to be aware of your surroundings and what your male friends, your brothers, are doing." She only knew her boyfriend two weeks.

With dozens of stories to tell, Gaines gets her point across, as we hear from Blount High School Senior Britnee Williams: "Being caught with other people is not worth my life in prison."

"It could be you. It could be whoever you're associating with," Gaines tells her audience.

It's a excruciating lesson learned the hard way by this woman, who says federal conspiracy and drug laws, with mandatory sentences and little judicial discretion, must change.

Nodd has an unlikely ally in U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama: "You want to be sure the penalty and rationale are fair," he says. 16-years ago Sessions led the's office that prosecuted her.

"The sentences are very, very tough and I think it can truly be said that they fall disproportionately on the African-American community because that's where most of the crack comes out of," says Sessions who is now pushing for fairer sentencing guidelines.

That's a move that Dorothy Gaines says can't come too soon: "Why would you let a person that molests a child, rapes someone, kills someone, out in three years and you can keep a person incarcerated for life. Stephanie Nodd is doing a 30-year sentence. Why are we doing this?"

For additional information, visit Dorothy Gaines' wesite: