By Tim Leeds
District Judge John Warner today sentenced a Havre man to two years in the Montana State Prison for operating a methamphetamine laboratory.
"I think you ought to do two years and I'm giving you two years," Warner said.
Shawn Kessler, 31, will be eligible for parole in six months, minus the 99 days he has already served, Assistant Hill County Attorney Cindy Faus said.
Kessler declined to comment during the hearing. He was arrested in June and pleaded guilty July 23 to operating a clandestine lab.
Faus said afterward that she was disappointed with the sentence. The county had asked for an eight-year sentence with all but two years suspended. Under that sentence, Kessler would have to serve the full eight years if he violated terms of his probation after his release.
Jeremy Yellin, Kessler's attorney, said he thought the sentence was fair. He told the judge that Faus' recommended sentence was too severe because of the nonviolent nature of Kessler's crime and the fact that all of his prior convictions are misdemeanors except for a felony in Washington state.
Yellin noted that Donald Sanders was sentenced to 18 months, and Kessler's girlfriend, Leslie Felton, was sentenced to 20 months on the same charge. Both were sentenced Aug. 22.
Jeremy Mork, who also pleaded guilty to the same charge, is scheduled for sentencing Oct. 5.
Kessler and Felton learned to make meth while they were in Washington state, Faus said after the hearing. In the eight months after they came to Havre, they cooked the drug in more than one location, she said.
The county asked for the harsher sentence because of the seriousness of the crime and Kessler's criminal history, Faus said. Operating a meth lab is dangerous and very expensive to the community, she said. Kessler's record includes a felony in Washington for taking a motor vehicle without permission.
Hill County probation and parole officer Steve Watson, who conducted a presentence investigation, said he thinks two years in prison and chemical dependency treatment would be appropriate for Kessler if he is willing to cooperate and reform.
Kessler was cooperative during the investigation and seemed willing to cooperate with prison officials, Watson said.
Warner said during the sentencing that the nature of the crime deserves a two-year sentence. Producing methamphetamine is not only illegal, but is dangerous to the community.