Attorney Darnell Crosland says his client Tanya McDowell has made "bonehead mistakes," but he says she has been unfairly targeted for law enforcement scrutiny because of the high-profile nature of her case involving theft of an education.
McDowell was arrested Friday on multiple drug charges by Norwalk Police after an undercover investigation. Crosland tried to get her bond reduced in Norwalk Superior Court on Monday during her arraignment, saying she is not a flight risk and suggesting she could wear an ankle bracelet. Judge Bruce Hudock denied the request. Bond for McDowell remained at $200,000.
McDowell has become the subject of national attention because she is also being prosecuted for first-degree larceny after enrolling her son at Brookside Elementary School when she didn't have a legal address in Norwalk. She wore a purple T-shirt as she sat in the courtroom Monday in handcuffs, her head slightly bowed, listening to Crosland speak on her behalf.
Crosland said McDowell, who is also facing drug charges from November, is the sole provider for her 6-year-old son, is certified clean through the Alternative in the Community program (an alternative to incarceration), and completed a job readiness program. He said the warrant, which Hudock signed, did not indicate that police officers spotted her making drug transactions while they were on patrol. She was targeted, he said. It appears that nearly the entire Special Services unit was involved, both in the arrests in Norwalk and the outstanding warrants in Bridgeport. "I am outraged," Crosland said.
The warrant leaves out essential elements, he said, including a woman at the Norwalk Open Door Shelter, who he identified as Wanda, who he feels was involved.
Crosland asked that McDowell's bond be reduced to the $25,000 she is under on previous charges. Hudock pressed him to say that he was requesting she be released on a promise to appear. "I did not want to use those words," Crosland said but agreed that was what he wanted. McDowell's son is being looked after my family members, he said, and he is "now stuck trying to file a power of attorney" to make long-term arrangements for the boy. "If she's guilty of anything she's guilty of making bad judgments," Crosland said.
The prosecution disagreed, saying McDowell is a flight risk and pointing out that she was caught with crack cocaine and marijuana where Columbus Magnet School children exit and enter to get the bus.
Hudock told Crosland he could file appropriate motions and set the bond at $50,000 on each count, with prejudice. Her next court date on Friday's drug charges is July 25.
Outside, Crosland said McDowell had been set up and she wasn't profiting from her actions. "She wasn't making money off of this at all," he said.
Wanda is a friend McDowell made in 2009 while she was at the shelter, Crosland said. McDowell saw her Friday, and the drugs belonged to Wanda, he said. "She said, 'Can you hold on to a few things for me,' and it turned out they were drugs," he said.
Police say McDowell had 30 small bags of marijuana and 23 small bags of cocaine, each weighing 2.84 grams, in her possession when she was arrested.
Carolyn Brown Nah, a bail bondsman who was head of the Bridgeport chapter of the NAACP for 16 years, said she tried to get bond for McDowell and failed. She wondered why the people who have been supporting her, including members of the Stamford and Norwalk chapters of the NAACP, were not at court Monday. "I am highly disappointed," she said. "Why aren't you here now?"
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