Margaret Starley

Margaret Starley, prisoner of the drug war
My story began back in January of 1991. My husband Nick and I wanted 1 gram of cocaine. The buy was set up and late one night it was delivered to us.

This was the beginning of a long nightmare.

Doug came over often with cocaine for us to buy. It wasn't long and we'd spend our tax return, taken out a personal loan, borrowed from every family member and friend we had in order to pay off our cocaine debts.

My husband and I let Doug and Darrel meet at our house to make their deals. In exchange for this, Doug would lay out a line of cocaine for us to do.

By May our lives had gone to hell and we had to do something. We moved back to my hometown and started over. I was so relieved to be away from it, I'd never done anything like that before.

Darrel had kept a ledger in order to keep track of his customers. He left it at a theater one night and when he realized it was missing, he went back for it. The owners had found it, were suspicious and called the police. They were there when Darrel showed up. It was July of the following year and four federal agents came to our home with an indictment.

We were arrested and charged with conspiracy to possess and distribute cocaine. I faced a life sentence and/or a million dollar fine. There were 20 people indicted with us -- we knew only 2 of them.

At first I pled not guilty because I wasn't guilty of the charges. When my lawyer explained that Doug and Darrel were going to testify that I let them meet at our house, I realized that I could be charged with conspiracy.

I ended up pleading guilty to possession with intent to sell. I received 6 months home arrest, 100 hours of community service and 4 years of probation. In the fall of 1993, I was drinking and driving. I served a year in prison for this offense.

After prison I began my life again. I had a job as a restaurant manager and bartender. Then I began a cleaning service and was doing quite well. I was in a traffic accident and rear ended a vehicle that had no brake lights. I was arrested again and given a year and a half in federal prison because I'd been on supervised release at the time of the accident.

Looking back, it still astounds me that a person can be convicted on the word of two dealers and the initials "M.N." in a small book. I'm just thankful it's almost all over ...