Former Weber County evidence tech sentenced to a year in jail for eating meth at work

(Benjamin Zack | Standard-Examiner, pool photo) Former Weber County evidence technician Candice Follum appears in Ogden's 2nd District Court on Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2018. Follum was charged with 40 counts related to consuming methamphetamine while working the Weber County Sheriff's Office's evidence room.

Ogden • A former Weber County evidence technician will spend a year in jail after she admitted that she tore through evidence bags to eat confiscated methamphetamine on the job.

Candice Barbara Follum pleaded guilty in October to 20 counts of third-degree felony altering a public record and another 20 charges of misdemeanor use of a controlled substance.

Her sentence on Tuesday was no surprise — attorneys had asked the judge for that punishment when she took the plea deal months ago.

Second District Judge Noel Hyde ordered that Follum spend six months behind bars before she is eligible for work release. She also will not be eligible for “good time,” or the opportunity to be released early.

Before handing down the sentence, Hyde said he felt it was “most troubling” that Follum had violated the trust that the public placed in her when she was hired to keep track of the Weber County Sheriff’s Office evidence. He said her case highlights the “ongoing tragedy” of substance abuse throughout Utah communities.

“You have now come to know the substances that you undertook in this case have led to a very, very tragic end,” he told Follum. “But it is not the end of everything. Ultimately, you have a battle which you must continue, that can only be overcome by your commitment. But you cannot give up that fight.”

Follum was led away in handcuffs after the judge handed down the sentence. She’s expected to serve her time in the Box Elder County jail to avoid a conflict of interest.

The 48-year-old woman did not speak at her sentencing hearing, but her attorney, Kristopher Greenwood, told the judge that Follum has spent the past year in substance abuse treatment.

Follum’s family noted in letters to the judge that she has been clean from drugs since December 2017 — when she was caught high at work and subsequently lost her job.

Her mother and daughters wrote that Follum’s drug addiction was a shock to them. By all accounts, she seemed to be living a normal life.

Daughter Britnee Follum wrote that her mother’s job and the position of trust she had “proved to be too much during that time of her life.”

“It does, however seem like she did her best to ensure no cases or other accused individuals were impacted by the manner in which she violated that trust,” the daughter wrote. “Candy was never a ‘junky’ hanging out in central Ogden, a menace to society or a danger to herself and others.”

But Branden Miles, the chief criminal deputy attorney for the Weber County Attorney’s Office, estimated Tuesday that his office had about 20 criminal prosecutions that were either dismissed or the defendants received “sweetheart deals” because of how Follum handled the evidence in the cases.

According to Miles and County Attorney Chris Allred, prosecutors have not been tracking affected cases and have been unable to flag specific cases in their case management system. The estimates have come from “asking around the office.”

Investigators found 38 cases where Follum took meth from sealed evidence packaging, according to charging documents. And there were at least 46 packages in the evidence room that she altered or destroyed. Miles said recently that they believe evidence in approximately 60 cases could have been affected.

Charging documents say Follum wrote a statement admitting she took meth tied to about 15 or 20 cases from the evidence room, though investigators now believe she had compromised many more cases. She later admitted to investigators that she had been stealing drugs from the evidence bags for three years and had been eating the drugs while on the job.

She also told investigators she became addicted to meth while working in the evidence room, and she would steal meth from closed cases rather than destroy it — though investigators later found drugs missing in open cases.

An internal investigation found that Follum was incredibly disorganized, and the evidence room was a mess. Often, the problem wasn’t that Follum had stolen evidence in a case, but that she couldn’t find it.

Prosecutors on Tuesday asked that Follum be ordered to pay nearly $500 in restitution for money that was in the evidence room that could not be located. Miles said they could have asked for more — that she repay the county for more damages and hours of work putting the evidence room back together — but they opted not to. It’s unlikely they would get that money, he said, and they wanted her to focus on her drug addiction recovery.

After Follum was fired, investigators went into the evidence room and noticed the metal mesh bottom of the door had been cut so someone could crawl through it, and the lock had been broken. The damage was covered up with butcher paper.

It was determined Follum lost her key, and rather than ask for a new one, she forced entry, broke the lock and tried to cover it up. It had been like that for three months, unreported.

Miles said since Follum was fired, Weber County officials have spent hundreds if not thousands of hours trying to catalog evidence and rebuild the evidence room. Now, evidence-handling procedures have changed and cameras have been installed to monitor the evidence.

He said he hopes Follum’s yearlong jail sentence will help restore public trust — and show that no one is above the law, even if they work for the police.

“You work for it every day,” he said of the public’s trust. “You show willingness to accept responsibility when mistakes are made. You show a willingness to learn from those mistakes, and respond to those in the best way we can to show these mistakes won’t be happening again.”