A Billings man was sentenced to 10 years in prison on Thursday for his role in a 2019 drug deal that spurred a shootout in a Shepherd home where the occupants included a 2-year-old child.
James Armstrong Higgins, 41, was sentenced in U.S. District Court in Billings.
Judge Susan Watters said the crime warranted a longer prison term than the seven years recommended by Federal Defender Steven Babcock. Assistant U.S. Attorney Colin Rubich recommended 12 years in prison.
Higgins pleaded guilty in October to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime.
Higgins provided the guns that armed himself and two others who went to confront a seller at his Shepherd home in June of 2019. The seller had accepted Higgins’ $3,000 but provided him with rock salt instead of meth.
Sheriff’s deputies were called to the shooting at 4:49 a.m. The shooting injured home occupants, including a 22-year-old and a 15-year-old.
A 2-year-old child was also inside the home at the time, according to charges filed in Yellowstone County District Court, which were dropped as the cases against Johnson and Higgins proceeded in U.S. District Court.
Higgins’ co-defendant, Gregg Johnson, was sentenced to seven years and 10 months in prison earlier in April.
Higgins did not fire his weapon. He was shot in the shoulder during the confrontation.
Higgins read a prepared statement apologizing to the people of Billings and to the federal court system. He said his shooting injury was “only due to my own actions,” and it gave him a chance to reflect. He said he is now tutoring others while incarcerated. Higgins completed his associate’s degree in electrical engineering.
Higgins said addiction had been a “constant battle” for 25 years.
Watters, the judge, echoed comments by Rubich, the prosecutor, about the prevalence of drugs and violence in the Billings area.
“We have so much gun violence going on because of the methamphetamine epidemic,” Watters said.