KANSAS CITY, Mo. – A Shawnee, Kansas lawyer and former public defender has been sentenced to over a year behind bars after smuggling heroin to a convicted murderer in prison with whom she had built an apparently romantic relationship.
U.S. District Judge Greg Kays this week ordered Julianne L. Colby, 44, to serve a 13-month sentence after she pleaded guilty in February to a felony count of conspiracy to distribute heroin. The hearing took place in the Western District Court of Missouri’s office in Kansas City.
Colby admitted to smuggling heroin in 2019 to an inmate identified in court as Conspirator 1, who was incarcerated at the Western Missouri Correctional Center in Cameron, Missouri. Colby hid the heroin in an envelope marked as “Legal Mail,” along with photos of herself and several documents from an inactive criminal court case. Eight baggies containing a total of 3.25 grams of black tar heroin were found taped behind the flap of the envelope.
The mail was marked with a fictitious return address for a law firm and addressed to a different inmate, identified in court documents as Conspirator 2, housed in the same unit as Conspirator 1.
However, this wasn’t the first time Colby and Conspirator 1 had been caught breaking laws as a part of a blossoming relationship.
According to court documents, their romance began when Colby, then a counselor with the state public defender’s office, was working on his murder case. Although Conspirator 1’s name is not mentioned in court, he is referenced as the same inmate, Ce-Antonyo Kennedy, with whom Colby formed a relationship in 2017 during his time in the Jackson County Jail.
Colby, 39 at the time, was charged in 2017 with delivering or concealing illegal materials after she provided a cellphone to Kennedy, who was 19 at the time and being held at the Jackson County Detention Center. County prosecutors claim the two shared sexually explicit text messages via the smuggled phone.
As a result of charges in the cell phone case, she entered a diversion agreement wherein the charges were dismissed following a probationary-like period. The diversion agreement was successfully completed on May 14, 2019, and the charges were dismissed.
Kennedy was facing charges of first-degree murder in the 2015 beating and shooting death of an 8th-grade girl. He was later convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to 15 years in prison.
In August 2019, Colby continued her relationship with Kennedy by regularly visiting the convict at the Cameron correctional facility, the U.S. Attorney’s office said in a press release. Colby and Kennedy shared a series of phone conversations in which they used “a variety of code words” to discuss the plan to smuggle heroin and contraband to Kennedy.
During the calls, Colby and Kennedy also discussed a “previous successful delivery of heroin,” court documents say. The calls were monitored and recorded by the correctional center, and later used as evidence against Colby.
Marc Ermine, Colby’s federal public defender, argued for a lighter sentence by claiming Colby’s decision to send the illicit drug was simply a “misguided attempt” to help a loved one with whom she had built a yearslong relationship with.
Prosecutors argued for an 18-month sentence, saying Colby used her “status and experience as an attorney to circumvent” the mail review process in prison. Prosecutors also said she displayed a pattern of “escalating her criminal behavior” after she had avoided a previous conviction for having smuggled a phone into jail for Kennedy.
Kennedy was one of three individuals convicted of slaying 14-year-old Alexis Kane, an 8th-grader at Smith-Hale Middle School. On Jan. 11, 2015, Kane was found beaten to death and shot at The Bay Water Park in south Kansas City.