In an unusual move, a judge on Wednesday tossed out an entire plea deal for a woman accused of providing marijuana to a teenage boy while living at an apartment at Butte Central High School.
The move followed an emotional plea from the mother of the teenager, who urged District Court Judge Robert Whelan to impose tougher penalties on 45-year-old Amy James Kadrmas than the three-year suspended sentence prosecutors recommended in the plea agreement.
But Whelan said it was comments Kadrmas made herself in a presentence investigation interview that led him to reject the entire deal. It was conducted after she pleaded guilty in June to a single felony count of criminal distribution of dangerous drugs on or near school property, which is punishable by up to life in prison and fine up to $50,000.
Whelan said the only regret Kadrmas cited in the interview was being too trusting and a “bad judge of character.”
“It tells me the only remorse she has is getting caught,” Whelan said.
He told Kadrmas and her attorney, Kevin Vainio of Butte, via Zoom that they had one week to decide if she wanted to withdraw her guilty plea given his decision and proceed from there.
Judges in Montana typically go along with plea agreements but they don’t have to. It’s not unusual for them to differ from sentence recommendations here, but tossing out entire agreements in open court doesn’t happen often.
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According to prosecutors, Amy Kadrmas and her husband, Brad Kadrmas, were living in a fourth-floor apartment at Butte Central High School in 2019 with a 14-year-old boy and she provided marijuana to him and a 14-year-old friend — the victim in this case. Brad Kadrmas was a math teacher at the school.
Kadrmas was initially charged by prosecutors in January 2020 with two counts of criminal distribution of dangerous drugs at or near a school and two misdemeanor counts of endangering the welfare of a child. Under the deal with prosecutors, she pleaded guilty to one felony count in June.
The family has also filed a civil lawsuit against Kadrmas claiming she targeted the teenager for abuse by providing him with marijuana, among other things. The suit also makes negligence claims against Butte Central High School and its Catholic governing entities.
The high school and other entities deny negligence and other claims and wanted the case dismissed, but it is still pending. The family is seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive money damages.
Kadrmas was to be sentenced in the criminal case during Wednesday’s court hearing, which included statements from lead prosecutor Kelli Fivey, the victim’s mother and Vainio.
Fivey also noted Kadrmas’ lack of remorse in the presentence interview. But the plea deal was crafted primarily so the teenage boy didn’t have to testify in a trial, Fivey said, and she was now bound by its terms.
The boy’s mother made a lengthy, emotional plea for tougher penalties, saying Kadrmas made her son feel like part of her family then got him to smoke marijuana. Kadrmas was at another location Wednesday but was part of the Zoom proceedings.
“Marijuana is called a gateway drug for a reason, and you opened that gateway for him,” the mother told Kadrmas.
Her son had since quit the school band, transferred schools, received counseling and therapy but was still suffering mentally and emotionally, the mother said.
“Our family has been drug through the mud,” she said, adding that they were strong and “will withstand the dregs of society.”
Vainio told the judge even though his client agreed to the plea deal, she had just been “castigated by the victim’s mother” and the prosecutor wasn’t really supporting the agreement. But they were still willing to stick with its terms, he said.
No matter, Whelan said, since he was rejecting the agreement altogether.