August 14, 2010
Arrest brings hope for mother of addict
Family sees 28-year-old’s guilty plea to attempted heroin sale as first step to recovery
Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
Joanne Sweeney talks about her son’s difficulty with heroin Thursday. “I feel I’m pretty savvy and aware of things, but somewhere along the line I couldn’t catch it,” she said.
In recent years, Joanne Sweeney has been waiting for and dreading one of three phone calls: that her son had been arrested, had overdosed on drugs or had died during a drug deal gone bad.
Then a call came three months ago that her 28-year-old son, Patrick Mazzone, had been arrested for charges related to selling and using heroin. It brought an unequivocal sense of relief to Sweeney that her son would have to overcome his drug addiction.
Sweeney sat behind her son Thursday when he pleaded guilty in Cortland County Court to a felony count of attempted criminal sale of a controlled substance.
He faces two years in state prison when he is sentenced in September.
While in jail over the past three months, Mazzone had to endure the painful challenges of detoxification from his addiction and has since regained much of his health, said Sweeney, who lives in Homer.
“He’s clean now, 96 days, but that’s just phase one for him and he never wants to go through this again,” Sweeney said during an interview after her son’s court appearance. “He has a tough road ahead, but he’s jumped one of the biggest hurdles to break the cycle.”
Mazzone was arrested by the Cortland County Drug Task Force during an investigation lasting several months into local heroin trafficking.
After seeing her son’s mug shot on the news, she realized that some people might easily think of him as a monster, of sorts, because of his involvement in drug trafficking.
But drugs are the real monster and addiction has been a long battle that changed her son drastically, Sweeney said.
Conversations would often turn into confrontations. After several years, the family found they had to resort to the “tough love” approach by denying his requests to help pay a bill or get extra cash.
“There was always a story, (Patrick) talking around things, the short-sighted thinking,” Sweeney said, speaking for her family. “It’s pretty bad when I look at my own son and call him a scumbag, that’s a tough thing to do.”
Prosecutors accused Mazzone of making seven sales of heroin.
He admitted Thursday in court to one attempted sale on March 24 around 5:30 p.m. at the parking lot of the Food Bag convenience store on Tompkins Street, in which $120 was produced to be exchanged for heroin.
Sweeney still asks herself how a good-natured and likable person such as her son, who loves cooking and working with his hands, became involved with drugs and whether more could have been done to help prevent what she described as a nightmare for a parent.
“I’m fearful even to admit when or how he got involved in drugs,” Sweeney said. “I feel I’m pretty savvy and aware of things, but somewhere along the line I couldn’t catch it.”
There are rehabilitation programs available to those who battle drug addictions, even while in prison.
Judge Julie Campbell said she would recommend a substance abuse treatment program at Mazzone’s sentencing.
Sweeney hopes treatment behind bars will fare better than a previous attempt.
“I had him in rehab in November and within 30 hours, a would-be friend checked him out,” she said. “(Patrick) thought he could get through it himself without rehab, but that’s the biggest lie to themselves — it doesn’t mean they don’t want to, but they can’t.”
Sweeney also has a daughter with a 10-year-old son of her own, whom the family hopes gets “scared to death” about the situation his uncle is in because of drug use.
She also hopes Mazzone will get back on his feet when he finishes his sentence and devotes some time to using his experience to teach others.
“I truly think it takes somebody that’s been in his shoes to reach out to somebody contemplating being in drugs, to share his experience,” Sweeney said.
Mazzone is in Cortland County Jail with bail set at $10,000 cash or $20,000 bond until sentencing.
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