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A Billings man who admitted to distributing more than a pound of cocaine will spend 6½ years in federal prison.

Chief U.S. District Judge Richard Cebull on Thursday sentenced Richard Solomon Russell Johnson, 31, at the midrange of the guidelines, saying he transplanted his criminal ways from California when he moved to Montana. Johnson committed the Montana crime while on probation and less than two years after being released from a sentence for domestic abuse in Yellowstone County, he said.

The judge dismissed four other counts.

Johnson has a history of drug abuse and neglect by his family in California, Cebull said. Johnson also was in a gang until he was 22 and unable to leave because his mother was a member, he said. Johnson may be able to turn his life around if he stays away from California, he added.

Johnson apologized and said he regretted not being home with his three children younger than 5.

Johnson pleaded guilty in August to possessing cocaine for distribution. Prosecutor Jim Seykora said Johnson sold cocaine and methamphetamine five times in 2006. When he was arrested in March, Johnson had a handgun, which he admitted that he got two weeks earlier as payment for a drug debt.

Johnson said he carried the gun to protect his drug operation because he had been robbed and shot at. He also admitted to distributing 16 ounces of powder cocaine and 3 ounces of rock cocaine from 2006 until his arrest.

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