Dear Judge Volland:
I am writing to urge you to consider the lightest possible sentence for Mechele Linehan. She is our neighbor and a dear friend of my entire family. Mechele is a close personal friend of mine, our children play together and until recently, we even spent the holidays together. When we moved to the neighborhood, Mechele and her daughter were the first people to welcome us, baked goods in hand, and have been warm and open with us the entire time we have known them.
Mechele is the sort of person who takes care of everyone around her. She is sorely missed by her friends, her family, and especially, her husband and daughter. She opens her heart and her home to those around her. Her home is a gathering place for friends and family of all generations. For example, she always takes a special interest in my mother, who lives with us, and makes sure she has what she needs and is included.
In the time I have known her, I have seen her as incredibly generous with her time, her resources, and her good humor. On more than one occasion I have seen her pick up a dog on the street, locate the owner, and be sure that the dog was returned. Mechele has taken in numerous animals that need homes. Although I consider myself a decent person, I don’t know that I would have gone the extra mile in many of the situations that I have seen Mechele do so. She is an inspiration to me.
More than that, of course, is that Mechele works to help people. She’s always willing to babysit for family and neighbors. Even while she was awaiting trial (and on severe restriction), Mechele took in a young woman who was experiencing an abusive relationship and tried to help her. She creates community with her family, the people in her neighborhood, and at her workplace.
One of the most impressive things I have seen about Mechele is how she has handled the entire indictment/arrest/trial/conviction. She has continued to go on with as normal of a life as possible throughout it all. During the year when she was awaiting trial, she took over a new business and worked incredibly long hours to make it thrive. She created a small family among the women who work at her clinic. She has kept a positive attitude in this most difficult of situations and just worked to make it as good for everyone concerned as possible. Even now, in prison, she has been working very hard at being the best she can be, to find meaning in her situation, and help others. This speaks volumes about her character.
All of us will suffer without Mechele in our daily lives. Not only is she not a threat to anyone, but she is such a force for positive in the community that it is truly a shame that she has been taken away from us. However, it is not most compelling that Mechele is a good friend, helpful neighbor, decent employer, and loving wife. These are all true. But most compelling is that she is the only mother that a dear sweet little girl has.
When I first met Mechele, as a mother, I was impressed with how she parents. She is loving, yet has high expectations. She is fun, but also tough. She pays attention to the small things with her daughter and is an ever-present shaping force in her life, from making sure she is not hurt by thorns on rose bushes to seeing to it that her daughter wears her bike helmet and writes thank you notes for gifts.
I have seen close up what this situation has done to her daughter. Mechele is not just a mom, she’s an extraordinarily great mom. To be robbed of that relationship has been very hard on both of them. From the time of the trial, her daughter has worked to be brave; she has been struggling forward with the positive attitude that all of us have been cultivating at Mechele’s lead. But I see her daughter taking little pieces of her mother and cherishing them to her heart, starting at the trial and continuing now. When we visited the Linehans in Alaska during the trial, her daughter paid special attention to how Mechele explained something to my 2 year old, hoping she could be as good with little children as her mother is. At Halloween, right after the conviction, her daughter kept insisting they do things as her and her mom always did. Just recently, at Christmas, we had her over to bake cookies. It was hard, because of course she had done this with her mom, but now she can’t. She has to go on without a mother for an unforeseeable amount of time. Possibly, as she goes through puberty, has her first date, perhaps even when she gets married and has her own children. I dearly hope that is not the case.
Thank you for reading this letter and considering my thoughts as you make this important decision.