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Gazette Staff

A Billings drug dealer convicted by a federal jury in methamphetamine conspiracy case was sentenced Thursday to 92 months in prison.

After Pedro Carrasco, 24, serves the seven years and eight months, he will be under the supervision of the U.S. Probation Office for another three years.

U.S. District Judge Richard Cebull sentenced the admitted addict at the bottom of a sentencing-guideline range, which could have sent him to prison for 115 months.

The length of the sentence was determined both by Carrasco's significant criminal past and by the amount of drugs involved.

Defense attorney David Duke argued strongly against using the 141.75 grams of methamphetamine as a drug total, which propelled his client's sentence to at least a mandatory, minimum five years.

Jurors had found Carrasco responsible for less than 50 grams of methamphetamine, the threshold for a mandatory minimum five-year sentence. But, under court rulings, additional amounts of the drug can be used in determining the sentence.

In calculating the sentencing numbers, the judge can consider the weight of drugs charged in counts for which Carrasco had been acquitted. So, instead of sentencing Carrasco on the basis of less than 50 grams, which would have skirted the mandatory five-year sentence, the judge found Carrasco responsible for 141.75 grams.

"It goes against common sense," Duke said. "It goes against fairness. It goes against justice."

Jurors who convicted Carrasco would not understand a sentence that held him responsible for more drugs than they found him guilty of handling, Duke said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jim Seykora said he would welcome the jurors back.

He said he wondered how they would react if they had the same information about Carrasco's past that the judge had. That would shock them more than the amount of drugs used as a basis for sentencing, he said.

Carrasco was one of five defendants convicted in February in a conspiracy charging that they brought methamphetamine to Billings for distribution in 2002.