By Jared Ritz
Two people were sentenced to Montana State Prison and another pleaded guilty in state District Court after being arrested this summer for being part of a suspected methamphetamine lab ring.
Leslie Felton, 29, was sentenced to 20 months in prison today by Judge John Warner after pleading guilty in July to the charge of operation of an unlawful clandestine laboratory. She will be given credit for the 78 days she has spent in the Hill County Detention Center and will be eligible for parole in 2.5 months.
Donald S. Sanders, 31, was sentenced Monday afternoon to 18 months in prison on one count of operation of an unlawful clandestine laboratory. He will receive credit for 51 days already served and will be eligible for parole in a few months.
Law enforcement officers on June 6 raided the Third Street home in Havre Felton shared with Shawn Kessler, according to a criminal complaint filed in court. Kessler pleaded guilty to the same charge on July 22 and faces sentencing on Sept. 12.
Eight Havre police offiers, Hill County sheriff's deputies and Tri-Agency Task Force agents conducted the raid after the task force received a tip the same day that Felton had tried to purchase large amounts of matches and a case of ephedrine at a service station, the criminal complaint said.
After learning her address, agents searched the residence's garbage and found items commonly used in making meth, including materials indicating that the first step of the cooking process had already been completed.
According to court documents, the raid happened while a batch of meth was being produced, and Felton admitted flushing much of the evidence down a toilet.
Sanders was arrested after Tri-Agency Task Force agents on June 13 inspected a trailer south of Havre that Sanders had just moved out of, according to a criminal complaint. Agents discovered chemicals and tubing commonly used in the production of meth, according to court documents.
While in custody on June 19, Sanders told officers during an interview that Kessler had brought the chemicals to the trailer, the complaint said. Sanders told officers he knew Kessler was manufacturing drugs with the materials, the complaint said.
During the 45-minute sentencing, Sanders' attorney attempted to secure his client a psychological evaluation, which would have delayed the sentencing.
Sanders testified that he suffers from panic attacks and constant nightmares, and that he uses methamphetamine to ward off those problems.
Warner denied the request for an evaluation. He said Sanders' mental condition did not interfere with his ability to understand his actions were criminal. Sanders pleaded guilty in July.
"He appreciated the criminality of his behavior," Warner said as he was denying the motion, "and he knew it was wrong."
Also in court Wednesday, Jeremy Lee Mork, 33, pleaded guilty to a charge of operation of a clandestine lab. Mork faces sentencing on Oct. 7.
Mork's guilty plea stems from an interview with law enforcement on June 20. According to court documents, Mork told officers he had known Kessler and Felton for about four weeks, and he had purchased them materials used to cook methamphetamine.