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Carrie Stoudemire, the mother of sidelined Phoenix Suns star Amaré Stoudemire, narrowly avoided jail during a hastily called March 31 hearing before Maricopa County Superior Court Commissioner Aimee Anderson.
Stoudemire had violated several conditions of her five-year probation on a 2003 felony DUI conviction. But rather than toss Stoudemire in jail to await trial later this summer on a second felony DUI arrest, Anderson agreed to allow her to continue receiving drug and alcohol treatment at an upscale Scottsdale rehab center.
The latest hearing came about because Stoudemire had violated a court order -- for the second time -- by leaving a rehab facility.
"I think the judge was fair and understanding, and I think she's giving Ms. Stoudemire a chance to improve herself," said Stoudemire's attorney, Larry Kazan.
At several times during the 45-minute hearing, it appeared that Anderson was on the verge of returning Stoudemire to jail.
"What makes you think your client can make the rules?" Anderson asked co-defense counsel Larry Debus. "She is facing mandatory prison time with prior felony convictions on her record. She has done nothing but violate terms of her probation."
Nevertheless, Anderson agreed to Debus' request to allow the career petty criminal to remain free on house arrest at Journey at Sundance.
Stoudemire had been held in the county jail since her felony DUI arrest on October 21, 2005. Anderson sent Stoudemire to the Meadows rehab center in Wickenburg on February 24. But Stoudemire inexplicably left that facility in mid-March in violation of the court order.
During a subsequent March 14 hearing, Anderson scolded Stoudemire. The judge said she was "furious" that Stoudemire had left the Meadows. But Anderson's fury passed and she agreed to Kazan's request to send Stoudemire to Sundance.
Anderson placed Stoudemire under house arrest and ordered her to remain at all times on the Sundance property. The commissioner also ordered that Stoudemire wear an electronic bracelet so that her whereabouts could be monitored by the court's Pre-Trial Services Agency.
Despite Anderson's orders, Stoudemire left Sundance on several occasions to attend off-campus programs that were supervised by Sundance personnel. The excursions included forays to the Franciscan Renewal Center for spiritual advice and trips to a salon where Stoudemire had her nails done.
Stoudemire's off-site adventures were not detected by Pre-Trial Services Agency for nearly two weeks because there were delays in equipping Stoudemire with a powerful enough electronic monitoring device that could track her location on Sundance's two-acre campus.
Bertha Lopez, a Pre-Trial Services Agency officer, told Anderson during the March 31 hearing that she finally held a contentious, two-hour meeting with Stoudemire on March 27. Lopez told the court that she told Stoudemire that she was not to leave Sundance and that she must wear the electronic monitoring bracelet.
Stoudemire, Lopez said, was very upset over the restrictions and was "abusive" toward her. "She made it very clear to me on that date for me to expect violations," Lopez told Anderson.
The violations came almost immediately.
On March 28, Stoudemire once again left Sundance to have her nails done. After being alerted by the electronic monitor that she had left the facility, Lopez left several voice-mail messages for Stoudemire to immediately call her.
"She never called back," Lopez told the court.
In most situations, an arrest warrant would be enforced against a defendant who flagrantly violates the terms of probation or release pending trial. But not in Stoudemire's case.
Debus argued during the hearing that Stoudemire was simply following the orders of the treatment center to attend off-campus activities.
"The thought never entered her mind even once that she has violated any of your court orders," Debus told Anderson.
Assistant county attorney George Kelemen told the court he had no objections to Stoudemire's returning to Sundance. But any further probation violations would immediately trigger an arrest warrant, he said.
Kelemen said Stoudemire's assignment to the Meadows and Sundance treatment centers and her potential successful completion of a drug rehab program will not affect the state's position on her pending DUI case.
"The new case is not going away," Kelemen said.
The state, Kelemen said, has offered Stoudemire a plea bargain calling for three years in prison. If she goes to trial and loses, she'll be looking at a minimum of four and a half years in prison, the prosecutor said.