David Gerald Knippel, 34, of Miles City, pleaded guilty Thursday in federal court to drug and firearms charges.
Knippel pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to make meth and to a count of possessing firearms in relation to drug trafficking. He faces five to 40 years in prison, a $1 million fine and three years of supervised release on the drug count and a mandatory consecutive five-year sentence on the gun count. Knippel also will forfeit to the government six firearms and a pickup truck.
Two other counts are to be dismissed at sentencing, which is set for Jan. 15 before U.S. District Judge Richard Cebull.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Ed Laws said evidence showed that on Dec. 16, 2002, and for at least a year prior, Knippel conspired with others to make meth. A search warrant executed at his residence by state and local law enforcement officers found numerous items used to make meth and to set up a lab. Officers also found firearms. Laws said Knippel made from 50 to 200 grams of meth and that witnesses and co-conspirators would testify that he was making the drug.
Earlier this month, a federal jury convicted Darin William Ewalt, 37, of Miles City, on conspiracy to manufacture meth and firearms charges. Although indicted separately, charges against Ewalt, Knippel and others, including Darrell Jay Pelvit, 33, of Miles City, are part of the same investigation. A witness at Ewalt's trial told the jury that all three defendants were involved in making meth together. Pelvit has pleaded not guilty and is awaiting trial.