Dealer gets two to five years in prison

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A 21-year-old Montana man who was arrested with a half-pound of cocaine, marijuana and a handgun while heading east on Interstate 90 near Rose Lake will serve at least two years in prison for trafficking drugs.

Skylar R. Smith told the court Tuesday in Coeur d’Alene that he was not an addict, but that he sold the drugs he purchased in Tacoma for profit in Montana, where he grew up along the Bitterroot River.

He said he sold the cocaine for $60 a gram over a period of several months, and the dealing lasted for more than a year.

Despite recommendations by both the prosecutor and defense attorneys that Smith be sent to a prison rehabilitation program in lieu of imposing a five-year prison sentence, First District Judge Lansing Haynes opted for the latter.

“This was a money-making venture for you,” Haynes said. “You chose to be a drug dealer.”

The judge opined that making tens of thousands of dollars a year by selling drugs to students in a college town, and likely having a portion of the drugs get into the hands of school children, was an activity that deserved punishment.

“What this sentence has to do is to protect society,” the judge said. “It has to make (drug dealing) an unacceptable business risk.”

Smith was arrested two years ago after the white 2012 Ford Taurus he drove east over Fourth of July Pass was stopped by county deputies.

Before his arrest, Smith told deputies he was heading home to Montana to see his mother. While deputies wrote a citation for Smith’s failure to change lanes properly, a sheriff’s K9 alerted on the car, indicating it contained drugs. Deputies uncovered a half pound of marijuana in addition to more than a half pound of cocaine in the Taurus.

“It was 280 grams of white, solid cocaine,” deputy prosecutor Julia Schoffstall told the court Tuesday.

Deputies also found a Ruger .22-caliber pistol and $660 in cash.

After securing a plea deal from Smith, which amended the charge from two drug counts to one, Schoffstall and defense attorney Jay Logsdon asked Haynes to send Smith on a rider, because he had cooperated with investigators, had no prior record and was not at a high risk to reoffend.

Haynes chose not to accept the terms of the plea bargain.

“It was a lucrative business,” Haynes said. “You don’t know where the cocaine is going … is it ending up in junior high schools? … With someone who is suicidal? … High schools? … It harms communities.”

Haynes said Smith’s decision was deliberate and lasted for an extended period.

“This sentence must deter,” he said.

Haynes sentenced Smith to two years fixed prison time and three years indeterminate. That means Smith has a chance at parole after two years, but would spend no more than five years behind bars.

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