News of Riverton, Lander and Fremont County, Wyoming, from the Ranger's award winning journalists.
Man pleads guilty to meth charge; judge ponders deal
Oct 10, 2013 - By Kelli Ameling, Staff Writer
A Riverton man pleaded guilty Wednesday to a felony drug charge for possessing methamphetamine. A plea agreement in his case lowered his charge in exchange for the admission, but the presiding judge did not immediately accept the deal.
Under the agreement, Richard Christian pleaded guilty to possession of a controlled substance in an amount greater than 3 grams, which carries a maximum penalty of seven years in prison and a $15,000 fine. The defendant originally faced a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $25,000 fine for conspiracy to possess methamphetamine with intent to deliver.
District Court Judge Marvin L. Tyler of Sublette County said he did not know if he will accept the plea deal. If he does not, Christian will have the right to retract his guilty plea.
"I don't know what to do about the plea deal yet," Tyler said, noting that he would request a pre-sentence substance assessment, which takes about six weeks to complete.
The plea agreement does not lay out a specific sentence.
If he does accept the deal, prosecutors and Christian's attorney would be free to argue for any penalty within the crime's maximum, and Tyler could decide the matter as he saw fit.
As of Wednesday, Christian remained in the Fremont County Jail in Lander on a $25,000 cash or surety bond. Attorney Lori Seth is representing him, but attorney Dan Caldwell of Lander filled in for Seth during the arraignment.
Christian's charges stem from his Sept. 3 arrest after he purchased meth from a confidential informant.
During the hearing, Christian had a question about the affidavit, which said, "CI informed me that on four prior occasions within the last three months, either he/she's marital partner had met with a person known to CI as 'Rich,' in Riverton wherein CI or CI's marital partner would provide Rich with quantities of methamphetamine ranging between 6 grams and 9 grams."
Christian said he would go to a motel and purchase 3 grams of methamphetamine at a time, sell it, then go back and purchase three more.
Fremont County deputy attorney Ember Oakley said her understanding was that he purchased 6 to 9 grams total and sold it.
The specific amount is critical to the charge because possessing 3 grams or less is a misdemeanor and incurs a maximum penalty of one year in prison. Any more than 3 grams, though, and the crime becomes a felony, punishable by up to seven years.
The prosecutor charged Christian with the felony.
Tyler said if Christian did not possess more than 3 grams of methamphetamine at one time, he could not enter a plea of guilt to the felony charge.
After a brief discussion between Christian and Caldwell, Christian went under oath stating he had more than 3 grams of methamphetamine on him at one time.
"Between June 2013 and July 2013, I would purchase 3 grams of (meth) and sell the grams at $150 apiece," Christian said. "I had a little left over for myself and would go buy 3 more grams."
Tyler confirmed this took place in Fremont County and that Christian possessed more than 3 grams of the drug.
Caldwell and Oakley argued about bail and whether it should be lowered.
Oakley said it should stay at the $25,000 cash or surety bond because of previous felony drug charges stemming from Colorado, but he noted Christian hasn't been in trouble since 2000.
"It's too early for (Christian) to be released on a low (bail)," Oakley said.
Caldwell argued that Christian is unable to come up with that much money, but could get between $500 and $1,000.
Tyler said he did not have time to come up with an amended bail agreement at the hearing.
"I will (have one) by the time I leave town today," Tyler said Wednesday.
On Sept. 2, Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation agents from the southwest enforcement team told DCI special agent Brady Patrick that a confidential informant had conspired with people from the Riverton area to sell meth and other drugs, according to an affidavit by Patrick.
On Sept. 3, the informant told Patrick that meth had been supplied four times to a man they knew as Rich, and fronted 6 to 9 grams, which was paid back after selling it.
Phone calls were then monitored between the informant and Christian.
Christian was later contacted after DCI agents saw him enter the informant's motel room, where he discussed the meth sale and accepted a package from the informant.
Authorities arrested Rose Marie Bell of Arapahoe and Elaine Fasthorse of Riverton on Sept. 3 also, believing they purchased meth from the same confidential informant as Christian. Bell has an arraignment Oct. 21, but a date for Fasthorse has not been set.