NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

December 26, 2013

Pair arrested for behavior on MTV reality show


CNHI News Service

GRAYSON, Ky. — A woman and her former boyfriend featured in a recent episode of MTV's "True Life" have been arrested based on their behavior on the reality show, which depicted the woman purchasing and using drugs, sometimes in the presence of her 5-year-old son.

Kentucky State Police last week arrested 26-year-old Cortney J. Howard, of Grayson, Ky., and 33-year-old David R. Nickell, of Sandy Hook, Ky. Police said the pair were charged as the result of their participation in an episode of the "True Life" series titled "I'm Addicted to Pills." 

The program aired on Dec. 9. It drew the scrutiny of Carter County Attorney Patrick Flannery, who said he watched it and "reported what I saw to the appropriate authorities." The KSP launched an investigation that culminated with Howard's and Nickell's arrests on Friday.

The KSP said the show’s cameras had captured "numerous violations of law," including drug use and trafficking and placing children in "unsafe positions."

Flannery said he was particularly disturbed by the portions of the program that depicted Howard engaging in drug-related behavior in the presence of her 5-year-old son.

“It is important to note that all citizens have a duty under Kentucky law to report the dependency, neglect or abuse of a minor to law enforcement or to social services," he said.

Howard was charged with first-degree drug possession, endangering the welfare of a minor and felony theft. Nickell, identified on the show as Howard’s former boyfriend, was charged with first-degree drug trafficking.

Howard was one of two addicts profiled on the program. The other was "Dan," a 29-year-old from Hollywood, Fla.

The show depicts Howard buying and using pills and stealing items from her mother that she trades for drugs. At one point, the program's cameras follow along as Howard and Nickell take Howard's son along on a drug buy.

"I know I shouldn't take (the boy) along, but I have no one to watch him," Howard says.

Later, Howard is shown snorting a crushed pill off the hood of Nickell's car while her son plays in the background. Howard admits she "crossed a line I never thought I'd cross" by using drugs in her son's presence.

Howard also is seen showing up late to her son's birthday party because she and Nickell are out trying to score pills, and swallowing a handful of pills at an outdoor party after police show up. She later tells producers she also drank alcohol at the party and woke up thinking, "Wow! I could've OD'd last night."

Near the end of the show, Howard is seen entering a treatment clinic and speaking to a counselor, telling him Suboxone, a drug commonly used in the treatment of opiate addiction, has eliminated her cravings for pills.

An epilogue at the conclusion of Howard's portion of the program states she continues to take Suboxone, hasn't gotten high on pills for two months and is planning to find a place to live on her own with her son as soon as she finds steady employment.

"True Life" has been airing on MTV since March 1998. Each episode follows a particular topic. The show is created by having camera crews follow the subjects through certain parts of their lives. The program has covered more than 140 topics and has won a number of awards.

Details for this story were reported by The Independent in Ashland, Ky.