Speeding Ticket Costly For Paulsen Judge Increases Cocaine Dealer’s Prison Term From 12 To 14 Years For Traffic Citation While Under Surveillance
A speeding ticket boosted a cocaine kingpin’s federal prison sentence from 12 to 14 years.
Clarence “Cip” Paulsen III wept Thursday as U.S. District Judge Fred Van Sickle ordered him to serve 168 months in prison.
That’s almost three years more than the prosecutor had recommended for the 35-year-old great-grandson of mining and real estate baron August Paulsen.
But the judge said “Cip” Paulsen deserved the longer sentence because a traffic ticket had to be counted as part of his criminal history.
Police issued Paulsen a reckless driving citation last May for going 104 mph in a 55 mph zone. He later pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of negligent driving and was placed on a year’s probation.
Paulsen got the ticket while he was under almost constant police surveillance for involvement in a drug ring that distributed hundreds of pounds of cocaine in the region.
Arrested in midAugust as a key figure in “Operation Doughboy,” Paulsen pleaded guilty in November to conspiracy to distribute between 15 and 50 kilograms of cocaine.
After his arrest, Paulsen credited the FBI with forcing him to end a 20-year cocaine binge.
He had bought and sold a kilogram (2.2 pounds) of the drug, usually for about $25,000, on the average of twice a month for several years.
Paulsen also pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute cocaine and two counts of distributing the drug.
“I’m really ashamed of what I’ve done,” Paulsen said in court Thursday as his divorced parents watched from the gallery. Paulsen, who has been in jail since his arrest, said he has “gone through a horrible withdrawal” from the drug. “I have a terrible drug problem. I accept all responsibility for it.”
The judge also fined Paulsen $5,000, which he can start paying off with a prison job that pays between 12 cents and 40 cents an hour.
His attorney, C.K. Carlton of Bellevue, Wash., argued unsuccessfully Paulsen should be credited with providing investigators with “substantial assistance.”
After striking a plea bargain, Paulsen provided the Spokane Regional Drug Task Force and the FBI with information leading to other drug cases, including a half dozen arrests in Missoula.
Carlton said it was unfair that Paulsen faces the long prison term while others in the case are getting much lighter sentences.
In court documents, Carlton referred to former drug counselor John S. Drake, who will get three years in prison, and attorney Howard Nichols, who faces four years.
“I think it’s clear that it’s unequal treatment,” Carlton said.
She said Paulsen was being singled out for harsher treatment because he “is from a family that has wealth and property rights.”
From jail after being sentenced, Paulsen expressed anger at the stiff sentence. “What are they doing? Singling me out because my name is Paulsen?”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Tom Rice said Drake and Nichols provided “substantial assistance” to investigators, while Paulsen only complied with a plea agreement.
Rice said the Supreme Court has ruled that it is within the discretion of prosecutors to decide if a defendant has provided substantial assistance.
“This defendant was fairly treated by the government, based upon the crime he committed,” Rice said.
Van Sickle said he found no evidence Paulsen was singled out because he is from a prominent family. He said the 14-year prison term “represents the concern and fear” of the U.S. citizens about drug dealing.
Carlton said she would appeal the sentence.