Travis Birdinground Sentenced in U.S. District Court
The United States Attorney's Office announced that during a federal court session in Billings, on February 28, 2013, before Chief U.S. District Judge Richard F. Cebull, TRAVIS BIRDINGROUND, a 44-year-old resident of Hardin, appeared for sentencing. BIRDINGROUND was sentenced to a term of:
- Prison: 18 days (time served)
- Special Assessment: $100
- Supervised Release: 3 years
BIRDINGROUND was sentenced in connection with his guilty plea to maintaining a drug involved premises.
In an Offer of Proof filed by Assistant U.S. Attorney Paulette L. Stewart, the government stated it would have proved at trial the following:
In approximately March of 2011, law enforcement received a complaint that Ross Pattison and BIRDINGROUND were distributing marijuana to numerous people in Hardin and other places in Big Horn County. Through investigation and interviews, law enforcement determined that Pattison possessed a Montana medical marijuana card but was not listed as a caregiver because he is a convicted felon. Law enforcement also determined that BIRDINGROUND worked for Pattison delivering marijuana. BIRDINGROUND also possessed a medical marijuana card and was a caregiver for only one patient. Law enforcement observed BIRDINGROUND leave Pattison's residence numerous times a night and make trips to several residences within Hardin. Law enforcement also observed several individuals drive to Pattison's residence to purchase marijuana from Pattison.
On April 22, 2011, law enforcement executed search warrants for Pattison's Hardin residence and two pickup trucks. Law enforcement seized approximately five pounds of marijuana, approximately $124,000 in cash, digital scales, a paper grocery bag full of zip-lock bags, a methamphetamine pipe with residue, hashish, and photocopies of patient medical marijuana cards for marijuana caregivers Brandon Strecker, Jason Gierke, BIRDINGROUND, and another individual.
On May 23, 2011, law enforcement executed a search warrant at Strecker's Hardin residence. Law enforcement seized a total of 420 marijuana plants - 112 marijuana plants in the attached garage, 239 marijuana plants in the bedroom, one plant in the living room, 68 in the greenhouse and shed. They also seized loose marijuana.
Several witnesses confirmed that Pattison would take and receive orders for marijuana and Gierke, BIRDINGROUND, and another individual would deliver marijuana to the buyers. Several witnesses will testify that after Pattison's house was searched, all deliveries were then made by Strecker or the others.
During an interview with law enforcement on April 22, 2011, BIRDINGROUND admitted his role in the conspiracy to distribute marijuana from Pattison's and Strecker's Hardin residences. The marijuana that he possessed on April 22, 2011, was marijuana that he was delivering for Pattison and Strecker. The marijuana was ordered through Pattison. BIRDINGROUND would pick up the marijuana from Pattison and give Pattison the money after the transaction. Pattison and Strecker paid BIRDINGROUND $800 every two weeks.
During an interview with law enforcement on May 25, 2011, Gierke stated that he helped set up the greenhouses and watering system as part of the marijuana grow operation at Strecker's Hardin residence. Gierke obtained his marijuana from Pattison and Strecker. Gierke, Pattison, and Strecker were "business partners." Pattison put it all together and they grew the marijuana at Strecker's residence.
Chemists with the DEA laboratory in San Francisco tested the marijuana items submitted from the search of Strecker's residence. Some of the items were plant clippings as well as loose marijuana. The result of the analysis was that those items contained a detectable amount of marijuana, a Schedule I controlled substance.
Strecker, Gierke, and Pattison pled guilty to federal charges.
Because there is no parole in the federal system, the "truth in sentencing" guidelines mandate that BIRDINGROUND will likely serve all of the time imposed by the court. In the federal system, BIRDINGROUND 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 a cooperative effort between the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Montana Division of Criminal Investigation.