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Man sentenced for role in 178-pound meth-trafficking operation in Fishtail

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BILLINGS - An accomplice of a Fishtail man who admitted he trafficked 178 pounds of methamphetamine into Montana was sentenced to federal prison on Thursday.

David Duerr, 45, was sentenced in U.S. District Court in Billings to 60 months in prison with an additional five years of supervised release.

Duerr pleaded guilty in April to one count of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine.

Attorneys for Duerr asked the judge for a commitment of five years in federal prison.

While the overall operation included close to 180 pounds of methamphetamine, defense attorneys said Duerr was only involved with about 2.25 pounds of methamphetamine in the conspiracy.

Defense attorneys said Duerr’s association with 63-year-old Merrill Gardner, the main player in the conspiracy, was “nothing more than coincidence.”

Duerr had a family cabin near Gardner’s home in Fishtail at a time when Duerr’s marriage was failing, according to his attorneys.

Gardner enlisted Duerr’s help in repairing his home and Gardner apparently paid Duerr with methamphetamine, according to court documents.

Defense attorneys argued that Duerr was obviously a minor player in the drug operation. When federal agents first raided Gardner’s home, they didn’t know Duerr was involved and actually left Duerr in charge of Gardner’s home, his attorneys said.

“Obviously, Duerr was not on the DEA’s radar in any way even after finding him at Gardner’s property and, in fact, he was not indicted in this matter until 17 months after this incident,” said defense attorneys.

Duerr alleges that he only used the methamphetamine personally and was not aware that on the day of Gardner’s arrest, there was a supply of drugs meant for Duerr to distribute.

Prosecutors estimated at sentencing for Gardner that he sent $1.4 million in drug profits to his supplier in Arizona.

Gardner was sentenced to 15 years in federal prison.

Brett Clouse, a former Montana sheriff’s deputy, was sentenced to 63 months in federal prison for his role in the operation.

RELATED: Man admits role in large meth trafficking operation in Fishtail

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