Convicted Billings methamphetamine dealer Duane Timothy Smith Jr. will spend 25 years in federal prison on trafficking and firearms charges, a term that is five years longer than his brother’s sentence.
U.S. District Judge Susan Watters on Wednesday said Smith, who was the leader of the ring and more involved than his brother, merited a longer sentence, but not the minimum 35 years he faced under his guideline range.
Smith faced 30 years to life on a conspiracy count and a consecutive mandatory five years for conviction on possession of a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking.
Last month, Watters sentenced Smith’s brother, Thomas Dean Smith, 43, to a total of 20 years in prison for his conviction on the same crimes.
Smith apologized to the court, his family and friends and said he was an addict. “I didn’t want to become a drug dealer,” he said.
The Smith brothers were indicted after an investigation led to a search of their home in September 2015 turned up almost 12 ounces of meth, 14 firearms and about $17,000 cash.
The residence, at 725 St. Johns Ave., was equipped with surveillance cameras that covered a 360-degree view of the outside of the house. And agents found by the door a sawed-off shotgun, which belonged to a nephew who acted as a doorman or guard at the house, the prosecution said.
After the September 2015 search, the Smith brothers moved and continued dealing meth and possessing firearms. The prosecution said the conspiracy involved pounds of meth being supplied to the Smiths from about September 2015 until April 2016.
Watters held each of the brothers responsible for 10 pounds of meth.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Brendan McCarthy recommended a total sentence of 35 years for Smith, with 30 years on the drug count and a consecutive five years on the gun conviction.
McCarthy called the Smiths’ conduct brazen, noting the surveillance cameras, numerous firearms and drug quantity. Despite the September 2015 search of their home, the Smiths relocated and kept trafficking meth, he said.
The majority of the meth, guns and cash were found in Smith’s area of the residence, McCarthy said.
Billings attorney Jay Lansing, who represented Smith, argued that a total sentence of 10 years, with five years on the drug count and five years on the gun conviction, was sufficient.
Smith is an “untreated addict” who got into trafficking to support his habit, Lansing said. And while Smith was more involved than his brother, he agreed to be interviewed by law enforcement and did not threaten not to “go without a fight,” as his brother did when arrested, he said.
Lansing argued that the guideline range of 30 years to life plus a mandatory consecutive five years placed him in a range that exceeded a sentence imposed on Dean LaFromboise, a Billings drug trafficker convicted in a notorious and violent meth case from the mid-1990s that involved running gunfights from vehicles and the death of a passenger.
LaFromboise initially was sentenced to 60 years in prison and through appeals had his sentence reduced to about 30 years.
“Duane is not Dean LaFromboise,” Lansing said.
Watters, noting the surveillance cameras, numerous guns, pounds of meth and his leadership role, said Smith’s conduct was more than that of an addict simply selling meth to feed his addiction.
“Nobody died, thank goodness, at your hands,” Watters told Smith. But after the September 2015 search of his home, Smith started “all over again” at a new residence, she said.
Another reason for the sentence, Watters said, was Smith’s violent criminal record, which included two felony convictions of partner or family member abuse.