Ex-Kansas lawyer sentenced for mailing heroin to romantic partner, a convicted murderer

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A federal judge on Tuesday ordered a former Shawnee lawyer to spend a little more than a year behind bars after she admitted to mailing heroin to a state prison meant for her romantic partner, a convicted murderer.

Juliane L. Colby, 44, was handed the 13-month sentence by U.S. District Judge Greg Kays following a hearing in the Western District of Missouri’s Kansas City office. Colby pleaded guilty to the offense of conspiracy to distribute heroin, a felony, in February.

Federal prosecutors say Colby spoke with her romantic partner, identified as Conspirator 1, by phone and during in-person visits to the Western Missouri Correctional Center. Over the course of that time, prosecutors say they planned to have heroin shipped inside.

Calls between the pair were recorded and later used as evidence by the government in Colby’s felony case. Prosecutors say they used various code words to arrange the shipment in an apparent attempt to avoid detection.

In August 2019, Colby mailed an envelope marked “Legal Mail” to the state facility in Cameron. It contained eight baggies of heroin that collectively amounted to about 3.2 grams, prosecutors said, along with legal documents and photographs of Colby.

The envelope also contained a fictitious return address for a law firm and was addressed to an inmate housed in the same prison unit as her partner, according to prosecutors.

Though federal authorities do not name Conspirator 1 in court, the person is referenced as the same inmate Colby formed a relationship with as she was employed by the Missouri Public Defender’s Office in Kansas City. The Star previously reported that Colby was the subject of an investigation after she provided a cellphone and other contraband to Ce-Antonyo Kennedy, who was charged at the time with first-degree murder in the shooting death of an middle schooler.

During that investigation, Colby, then 39, was charged with delivering or concealing illegal materials to Kennedy, who was 19 at the time. County prosecutors said the pair exchanged sexually charged text messages on a personal cellphone that Kennedy kept against jail rules.

In that case, Colby was offered a diversion agreement through Jackson County Circuit Court that ended with charges being dismissed against her in May 2019. Less than three months afterward, she sent the package containing heroin to the state prison.

Colby, who holds a degree in social work along with her law degree, was employed by the public defender’s office at the time in her capacity as a counselor. Kennedy was one of her clients. She was fired after the criminal allegations first came to light.

Kennedy was one of three convicted in the slaying of 14-year-old Alexis Kane, an eighth-grader at Smith-Hale Middle School. The girl was found beaten to death and shot on Jan. 11, 2015 at The Bay Water Park in the 7100 block of Longview Road in south Kansas City.

Kennedy was found guilty by a Jackson County jury of second-degree murder and armed criminal action in the girl’s death. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison.

In a motion for lighter sentencing in Colby’s federal case, Marc Ermine, a federal public defender, wrote that Colby is the single mother to a 12-year-old daughter. He said her decision to send a small amount of heroin to a state prison represented a “misguided attempt” to help a loved one with whom she had a yearslong relationship.

Prior to her sentencing on Tuesday, Colby had spent six months in Bates County after entering her guilty plea in February. Defense lawyers for Colby sought a sentence of time already served.

Federal prosecutors, meanwhile, asked the judge to sentence Colby to 18 months in prison. In support of that argument, prosecutors said she used her “status and experience as an attorney to circumvent” the process by which mail is reviewed in prison and displayed a pattern of “escalating her criminal behavior” after avoiding serious criminal penalties before.