A Billings man, who along with his brother, continued trafficking large amounts of meth after a search of their house turned meth, firearms and about $17,000 in cash, will spend 20 years in federal prison.
In sentencing Thomas Dean Smith, 43, on Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Susan Watters rejected a defense characterization that Smith was merely a drug user selling meth to support his habit.
While Smith’s role in the conspiracy was less than that of his brother, Duane Timothy Smith Jr., Watters said there was no doubt Smith knew what was going on and was “very involved.”
When arrested in April 2016, Smith had meth on his person along with two firearms, both containing loaded magazines, Watters noted. Smith also told arresting officers that he was “not going without a fight.”
“Locking you up for 20 years is sufficient,” Watters told Smith.
Smith pleaded guilty in December to conspiracy to distribute meth and to possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime.
Smith faced a guideline range of about 17 years to 21 years on the drug count plus a mandatory consecutive five years on the gun count. He has a previous conviction in Yellowstone County for failing to register as a sex offender.
Prosecutor Brendan McCarthy recommended a high-end sentence totaling more than 26 years.
Defense attorney Vern Woodward requested a total of 10 years.
Woodward disputed the quantity of meth attributed to Smith.
Evidence presented by the prosecution showed the conspiracy involved pounds of meth that were being supplied to the Smiths from about September 2015 until April 2016.
Watters ultimately held Smith responsible for more than 4.5 kilos, about 10 pounds.
The Smith brothers were indicted after agents with the Eastern Montana drug task force, with help from a local law enforcement SWAT team, executed a search warrant on Sept. 29, 2015 at their residence at 725 St. Johns Ave. Officers recovered almost 12 ounces of meth, $17,121 in currency, 14 firearms, video surveillance equipment, drug ledgers and packaging supplies, the prosecution said.
A task force agent testified at the sentencing that surveillance cameras covered a 360-degree view of the outside of the house. In addition, agents found by the door a sawed-off shotgun, which belonged to a nephew who acted as the doorman or bouncer.
The agent also said that through a separate drug investigation, law enforcement learned that the Smith brothers had moved after the September search to two other residences, at 4025½ Second Ave. S. and at 602 S. 31st St., and were continuing to deal drugs and to possess firearms.
Smith apologized for hurting his family and said he took responsibility for his actions.
Smith’s brother, Duane, is to be sentenced on June 7 for his conviction on the same crimes.