At her age, Doreatha Mosby wasn’t about to feign innocence when New Orleans police came knocking in 2011.
“I ain’t gonna lie,” said Mosby, now 71. “I’m gonna give you what I got.”
She reached into her bra and retrieved a crack pipe, according to a police report.
Police apparently found no cash or drugs in the apartment on Texas Drive in Algiers. However, NOPD Officer Rafael Dobard, who pleaded guilty in February to stealing police undercover funds, said he had seen Mosby exchange something with a man a few hours earlier in a green Oldsmobile outside. Other officers stopped the man, Ronnie Palmore, and reported he was holding packets of crack.
A jury last year found both of them guilty, and Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro’s office turned the screws on Mosby, demanding she be sentenced as a four-time felon under the state’s habitual-offender law.
After a failed appeal by Mosby, Criminal District Court Judge Julian Parker this week sentenced the mother of five and grandmother of 11 to 30 years in prison on a drug distribution count. Palmore, 28, who testified against her, got 40 months for possession last year.
“The trafficking of illegal narcotics plagues this city and fuels its high rate of violent crime,” Cannizzaro said in a written statement. “The cocaine sold by a 70-year-old dope dealer is no less dangerous to our community than the cocaine sold by a 25-year-old dope dealer.”
Mosby’s only living brother, however, said the punishment seemed out of line for what Mosby claimed was a personal drug habit that started with modest, social use of crack cocaine at age 48.
Mosby had turned down a 15-year plea deal before the trial to resolve the case and another pending crack charge, Cannizzaro spokesman Christopher Bowman said.
John Batiste, 64, called the heavy sentence retribution for his sister’s refusal to cooperate in the other case.
“Her words were, ‘Brother, they hijacked me,’ ” Batiste said.
“What they found on my sister was just a crack pipe. No dope, no money, no car, no nothing,” Batiste said. “How do you classify her as a distributor with that?”
“She wouldn’t roll over. She always took the position that, ‘You don’t have anything on me and I’m not taking those years,’ ” he said.
After Mosby’s conviction last year, Parker had sentenced her to 10 years in prison. The longer sentence came Thursday, after her appeal lawyers argued in vain that the jury erred in finding her guilty on the distribution charge and that her trial lawyers failed to get her case split off from Palmore’s.
The prior convictions that Cannizzaro’s office cited in seeking the high sentence all came in the 1990s, when Mosby pleaded guilty to charges in three separate drug-possession cases.
Her first conviction came at age 52. She spent two years in prison on a narcotics and LSD rap, getting out in 2000, records show.
Her criminal record also includes an arrest for attempted murder in 1971, in a case that the District Attorney’s Office refused. Details on that allegation were unavailable Friday.
“Prior to trial, the District Attorney’s Office offered her a reasonable plea deal to resolve both of her distribution cases, but she refused to acknowledge her criminal wrongdoing,” Bowman said. “Mosby’s record coupled with her indignation for the criminal justice process leads to one inescapable conclusion: As long as this defendant was on the streets, she was going to be selling dope.”
A presentencing report by a state probation officer described Mosby as “unrepentant regarding her substance abuse.”
Mosby, it said, started working at age 15, doing maid service at Arnaud’s and other restaurants, then got a job with South Central Bell at age 25.
While working for the phone company, she opened a bar called Sorrento at Prytania and Lyons streets Uptown. She retired from the phone company after about 20 years.
“Ms. Mosby stated that she felt her cocaine use was never a problem. She said she never did anything ‘stupid,’ such as robbery, stealing or turning to prostitution to finance her use of cocaine,” it said.
Prosecutors claim she bankrolled it in a different way — by selling it.
In the meantime, she enjoyed playing Pitty Pat, poker and bingo. Batiste said his sister could “turn the skillet,” making crawfish bisque and gumbo, and could “turn leftovers into a gourmet meal.”
Mosby turned to crack as a result of a bad relationship, Batiste said.
“We would talk about it. I’d say, ‘Sister, you need to get some type of assistance.’ She would tell me, ‘Brother, I smoke crack because I have arthritis, real bad pain, and the medicine don’t do me no good,’ ” said Batiste, a retired U.S. Army veteran. “That’s a junkie excuse. That’s my opinion of it.”
Another brother was killed in Vietnam, and yet another died two years ago.
Mosby, who is being held at a state women’s correctional facility in St. Gabriel, doesn’t have much chance of living long enough to serve out her full sentence, said Batiste, though her mother just turned 98. He described his sister as being in fair health.
“We know she ain’t gonna be that long. We don’t think she could have survived the 10 years,” he said.
Mosby’s appeal attorney, Adam Beckman, did not respond to a request for comment.