Christopher Wayne Williams Sentenced in U.S. District Court
The United States Attorney's Office announced that during a federal court session in Missoula, on February 1, 2013, before U.S. District Judge Dana L. Christensen, CHRISTOPHER WAYNE WILLIAMS, a 38-year-old resident of Helena, appeared for sentencing. WILLIAMS was sentenced to a term of:
Prison: 5 years (Count VI) plus 130 days (Count III)
Special Assessment: $200
Supervised Release: 5 years
WILLIAMS was convicted on September 27, 2012, following a 4 day trial in federal district court in which he was found guilty of conspiracy to manufacture, distribute, and possess with intent to distribute marijuana, manufacture of marijuana, possession with the intent to distribute marijuana, and possession of a firearm during a drug trafficking offense.
Following WILLIAMS' conviction on all counts, the parties reached a post-conviction agreement in which the United States agreed to dismiss Counts I, II, VI, V, VII, and VIII, in exchange for WILLIAMS' waiver of appeal. WILLIAMS was only sentenced on Counts III and VI.
The facts established at trial proved the following:
In late 2010, the federal government began to investigate Montana Cannabis. The investigation was prompted, in part, because of complaints from the public about the activities at the former State Nursery facility. It was also prompted by complaints from employees of Montana Cannabis about WILLIAMS' volatile behavior. The employees were also worried about the manner in which firearms were part of the culture of the grow operation.
Accordingly, a number of federal agencies began to investigate the conspiracy. The investigation was extensive and included close scrutiny of the conspiracy's banking practices.
On March 14, 2011, search warrants were executed at the Helena grow operation and dispensary, the Flor residence, the Billings dispensary, and the Missoula dispensary. About 950 plants were found at the Helena grow operation. Firearms were also found at that location placed in a manner clearly intended to protect the operation from robbery. Several of the firearms were associated with Dan Nichols, a notorious criminal who served as "armed security" at the Helena grow operation. Significant amounts of marijuana were also found at the Billings, Helena, and Missoula dispensaries.
WILLIAMS showed up at the greenhouse in Helena during the search. He stated that the operation there had produced 56 cycles, each of which yielded 150 to 200 ounces of marijuana. Using the lower estimate of 150 ounces per cycle, and assuming each ounce sold at a conservative $200 an ounce, the Helena operation yielded $1,680,000 over the course of the conspiracy. Combined with the amount of proceeds produced at the Miles City address, the conspiracy produced a total of at least $1,728,000 in marijuana.
The search of the Flor residence in Miles City disclosed the presence of marijuana prepared for distribution. An extensive cache of firearms was also found in the residence. Many of those firearms were placed in a manner so that they could be used to protect the operation.
Justin Flor was at the Billings dispensary when it was searched. He had a pistol in the waistband of his pants. Justin Flor stated that his family was preparing to grow marijuana in Miles City as part of its annual outdoor grow. Justin Flor disclosed that Montana Cannabis used bank accounts and he deposited money from the sale of marijuana into at least one of the banks accounts.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph E. Thaggard and Paulette L. Stewart prosecuted the case for the United States.
Following the sentencing, United States Attorney Michael W. Cotter said, "Williams repeated claims of "compliance" with Montana law are simply false. Williams is a convicted marijuana dealer who operated a drug trafficking organization outside both federal and state law. It is also important to remember that Williams used not one, but several weapons in furtherance of his drug trafficking crime. He will serve the remainder of his incarceration in a federal penitentiary. Marijuana, along with heroin, LSD and Ecstasy are all Schedule I controlled substances. Schedule I substances are defined as having no currently accepted medical use in the United States, a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision, and a high potential for abuse."
Because there is no parole in the federal system, the "truth in sentencing" guidelines mandate that WILLIAMS will likely serve all of the time imposed by the court. In the federal system, WILLIAMS does have the opportunity to earn a sentence reduction for "good behavior." However, this reduction will not exceed 15% of the overall sentence.
The investigation was conducted by the following federal, state and local law enforcement agencies: the Drug Enforcement Administration, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations, Criminal Investigation Division of the Internal Revenue Service, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Environmental Protection Agency-Criminal Investigation Division, U.S. Customs and Border Protection-Border Patrol, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. These federal agencies were assisted by local High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area task forces, the Northwest Drug Task Force, the Kalispell Police Department, the Flathead County Sheriff's Office, the Missoula Police Department, the Missoula County Sheriff's Office, the Missoula High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) Task Force, the Great Falls Police Department, the Cascade County Sheriff's Office, the Central Montana Drug Task Force, the Billings Police Department, the Yellowstone County Sheriff's Office, the Eastern Montana High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) Task Force, the Dillon Police Department, the Beaverhead County Sheriff's Office, the Park County Sheriff's Office, the Bozeman Police Department, the Gallatin County Sheriff's Office, the Belgrade Police Department, the Missouri River Drug Task Force, the Helena Police Department, the Lewis & Clark Sheriff's Office, and the Eastern Montana Drug Task Force - Miles City.