I-Team: Judge reduces sentence for drug dealer

I-Team

HENDERSON, Nev. (KLAS) — A 10-year sentence for a Henderson woman convicted of distributing fentanyl was reduced to two years. According to court records, it was a compassionate release because of COVID-19.

The woman sold fake drugs to a friend, resulting in a drug overdose, and the victim’s mother is calling for justice.

Compassionate release is used when issues, like illness or certain family circumstances, are considered, and a prisoner is released early and doesn’t have to serve their original sentence.

Over the past year, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, 200 inmates from cases in Nevada have made this request since the start of the pandemic. The court has granted about 40.

This mother asks, where’s the compassion for the victims and their families?

“She was my one and only daughter. She was my child,” said Yvonne Kuerner. “…My daughter made a bad decision. My daughter is not what she died of.”

Kuerner says in 2015, her daughter, Christiana, moved from Ohio to Las Vegas for a new beginning. In 2017, the 25-year-old woman died of a drug overdose.

“Got, you know, obviously wrapped up in partying and stuff and met somebody who portrayed herself as somebody she could trust and would sell her drugs,” Kuerner shared.

Investigators say Tianna Cordova knowingly sold Christiana fake pills with fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid. She thought she was buying Percocet.

Cordova was arrested and charged in 2018 by federal authorities.

According to prosecutors, she was allowed to stay in a halfway house but was removed after she tried to cheat a drug test. She was moved to a detention center, where she was caught attempting to make a drug sale using a cell phone.

Through a plea deal, Cordova plead guilty to distribution of fentanyl.

Federal Judge Richard Boulware sentenced Cordova to 10 years in prison, followed by 15 years probation, in 2019.

“That, to me, was the compassion,” Kuerner explained. “The compassion, you got 10 years.”

Cordova requested compassionate release the following year. The warden at her California prison denied her request. Her attorneys then made the request to Boulware, citing COVID-19 and the increased danger of catching the virus in prison.

They pointed to Cordova’s epilepsy/seizure disorder, asthma and obesity.

Cordova wrote to Boulware, saying she is clean and earned her GED in prison. In January, he tossed out the 10-year prison sentence, reducing it to five years probation.

We asked Kuerner how much she felt like the judge let her down, to which she replied:

“The judge, 100%. … the facts of the case did not change with COVID. What changed?… My daughter is still dead, and she’s still guilty.”

Federal prosecutors argued reducing Cordova’s sentence risks marginalizing her criminal conduct, promotes disrespect for the law and more importantly, trivializes the overwhelming suffering of her victims.

But to Kuerner, they didn’t fight hard enough.

“Every time I turn around, her lawyer outlawyered them,” she said.

The I-Team asked U.S. Attorney Nicholas Trutanich if he believes his office did everything they could to keep Cordova in prison.

“I can only imagine the grief that the victim’s family is going through, the frustration with the justice system,” he said. “We argued against strongly, and we put our arguments forward as best as we could.”

Trutanich says his office is appealing the decision.

“We disagree with it, but we do so respectfully,” he noted.

Kuerner insists her goal isn’t revenge. She says she just wants justice.

“I cannot go to my grave, whenever that might be, knowing I didn’t fight for my kid.”

The I-Team tried reaching Cordova but was unable to. We also reached out to her attorneys and did not receive a response in time for this report. We also reached out to Boulware, and a spokeswoman said the court does not comment on current cases.

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