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Press Release

Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals Affirms Conviction and Sentence in Drug Conspiracy Case

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of South Dakota

United States Attorney Randolph J. Seiler announces that the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals has affirmed the conviction and sentence of Lona Lee Colhoff who was found guilty by a federal jury of two counts of conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance and one count of attempted witness tampering.  The district court sentenced Colhoff to concurrent 45-month sentences for each conviction.

In her appeal, Colhoff challenged the sufficiency of the evidence on the witness-tampering conviction and asserts that the statement underlying her conviction was protected expression under the First Amendment. She also argued that the conspiracy charges were improperly joined with the witness tampering charge.

The case involved the prosecution of a drug distribution network headed by Colhoff’s brother. Her brother relied on a network of family members and friends to transport, store, and distribute cocaine and marijuana on and around the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. 

Because there was a reasonable basis to conclude that Colhoff and a co-defendant were involved in a common scheme to distribute drugs, the district court did not plainly err by permitting joinder of Colhoff’s conspiracy charges with the charge that she attempted to tamper with a witness against a co-defendant.

Assistant United States Attorney Ted L. McBride prosecuted the case at the district court level and handled the appeal for the government.  The case was investigated by the Northern Plains Safe Trails Drug Enforcement Task Force.

Updated August 23, 2016

Drug Trafficking