More people sentenced in federal meth caseWORTHINGTON — Two more people were sentenced this week in the federal methamphetamine case involving 15 area defendants.
WORTHINGTON — Two more people were sentenced this week in the federal methamphetamine case involving 15 area defendants.
Steven Bixby, also known as “Cowboy,” was sentenced to 120 months in prison and five years of supervised release.
Bixby, 51, of Round Lake, pleaded guilty in July to conspiring to distribute 500 grams or more of a substance containing meth, admitting that between mid-2008 and until March 2009 he voluntarily joined and was involved in an ongoing conspiracy to purchase and redistribute meth.
On Oct. 18, Bixby’s attorney filed a request for a downward departure from the sentencing guidelines, stating that such a variance was warranted in this case.
“(Bixby) was by all accounts a low-level participant in this drug conspiracy,” the motion states. “His involvement centered on middling deals so he could support his own habit and occasionally riding along while bigger players in the conspiracy conducted their affairs.”
The motion goes on to describe a “life of hard knocks” endured on Bixby’s part, stating he lost much to his addictions — a successful business, time with his family and his health.
“Through it all, however, (Bixby) remained a good person at heart,” the document states, adding that he had been clean for more than a year at the time he was arrested on the indictment and was putting his long history of addiction behind him.
“We submit that the suggested sentencing range of 57 to 71 months represents a reasonable sentence…” the motion states.
The court apparently disagreed, handing Bixby a sentence of 10 years in a federal prison.
Bixby was indicted in the South Dakota Federal Court along with 12 other individuals. The original indictment, filed in September 2009, named three people in a meth conspiracy. That number had grown to 15 by this past May. The individuals indicted came from Worthington, Rushmore, Round Lake, Brewster, Heron Lake, Westbrook and Sioux Falls, S.D.
Of the 15, more than half have already been sentenced.
Ryan Moberg, 31, of Worthington, was also sentenced Tuesday, and his attorney had also filed for a downward departure, requesting that the court first start with the bottom of the applicable guideline range of 52 months to reflect Moberg’s “limited culpability” in the conspiracy — and then depart downward by 13 months to represent the period of time Moberg remained clean from drugs prior to his arrest.
The document states Moberg lost his job of eight years due to absenteeism after he began using meth and became part of the conspiracy in 2006. He was arrested in June 2007 and spent 40 days in jail; he then stayed clean for about nine months.
Between March 2008 and March 2009, the motion states, Moberg used meth occasionally and did work for people in exchange for personal use quantities of meth, frequently for co-defendant Ronald Soules. Moberg was present March 27, 2009, when Soules’ apartment was raided and a large quantity of meth seized.
Moberg was taken into custody, but not arrested or charged.
“From that day forward, Moberg withdrew from the conspiracy,” the motion states. “His parents saw to it he no longer associated with Ron Soules and the other people involved with meth… Almost 14 months removed from the conspiracy, Moberg was surprised when he was arrested by the Buffalo Ridge Task Force following the second superceding indictment on May 6, 2010.”
Moberg was sentenced to 51 months in prison and five years supervised release.
Also sentenced in the past month were both women involved in the indictment, Jennifer Erickson, 28, of Sioux Falls, S.D., and Kari Baumann, 33, of Worthington.
Erickson received a sentence of 72 months and four years of supervised release after pleading guilty to personally distributing or possessing with the intent to distribute 500 grams or more of a substance containing meth. Prior to her arrest, her own motion for downward departure states, her criminal conduct was minimal.
“The defendant respectfully requests the court consider her family ties and responsibilities to her young daughter who was taken into protective custody following her arrest on May 6, 2010,” the motion states. “…The guidelines range considering her family ties is too harsh.”
No specific request for a sentence was made in Erickson’s motion.
Baumann, who also pleaded guilty to distributing 500 grams of more of a substance containing meth, stated in a downward departure motion that getting involved with meth began as a way to medicate the pain she felt over losing her marriage, which turned into a downward spiral.
“Baumann was a productive, hard-working member of society. Then she unexpectedly found out that her husband was unfaithful,” the motion states. “In short order, Baumann lost her marriage, her health, both of her jobs, her home and many of her friends… Meth eventually cost her nearly everything she owned.”
The circumstances, the document states, are tragic, but at the same time, she has been forced to quit meth and look at how far she has fallen.
“She now has the opportunity to get clean, attend treatment and return to being a productive member of society,” the motion states. “Faced with such a prospect, Baumann asks the court to fashion a sentence that will not squelch hope in its infancy by imposing a sentence with lengthy confinement.”
Several others await sentencing in the case.