A former Fredericksburg police dispatcher who used her job to feed information to suspected criminals was convicted of nine criminal charges Friday.
Karen Stephenson, 41, entered no-contest pleas in Fredericksburg Circuit Court to two felony charges: possession of illegal drugs with the intent to distribute as an accommodation and conspiracy. She was also convicted of seven Class 1 misdemeanors.
Stephenson will face a maximum penalty of 27 years when she is sentenced Sept. 30, though the recommended state sentencing guidelines will certainly call for her to serve much less time.
According to the evidence, Stephenson’s legal trouble began in July of last year when an informant told police that Stephenson was giving information about ongoing drug investigations to suspects. The informant turned on Stephenson as a way to get relief from some of her own legal problems.
The informant testified at a preliminary hearing that she had been friends with Stephenson for about a decade and that Stephenson had been feeding her and others confidential police information for a number of years. The informant said the time frame included Stephenson’s stint as a dispatcher in Stafford County.
Prosecutor Kevin Gross said city and state police set up stings in late July of last year in an effort to verify what the informant had told them. They set up surveillance in Mayfield subdivision while Stephenson was on duty in the police communications room, then gave her information as part of her job.
Stephenson both times used her personal cellphone to send the information to the informant, who she didn’t know was working with the police.
The informant testified that she regularly purchased drugs, mostly prescription pills, for Stephenson and was often given some for herself as payment. On Aug. 2 of last year, police had the informant set up one of those transactions.
According to police, Stephenson was under surveillance as she took an early lunch break and got money from an ATM before picking up the informant. The informant, who was wearing a recorder, used Stephenson’s money to purchase drugs.
Police stopped Stephenson’s vehicle after she dropped off the informant and recovered multiple pills that had just been purchased. They also found incriminating evidence in Stephenson’s home not far from the police station.
Defense attorney Benjamin Burchett tried to persuade Judge Gordon Willis to allow Stephenson to remain free on bond until her sentencing. Burchett said Stephenson had been in no trouble previously and has gotten a new job with a law firm in Warsaw.
Willis said he has a longstanding policy of revoking bond once a defendant is convicted and sent Stephenson to jail.