The organizer of a violent methamphetamine ring in Spokane is heading to federal prison for more than 24 years.
Richard “Butch” Forrest II, a member of the Iron Horsemen motorcycle club, received the harshest sentence given to seven ring members.
His sister, Monica Faye Forrest, received 10 years in prison Friday. His girlfriend, Cheryl M. Rogers, was sentenced to 12-1/2 years.
An organized crime task force described the meth ring as the biggest ever busted in Spokane. Prison terms in the case - following federal sentencing guidelines - are longer than those sometimes given to people convicted in homicides.
U.S. District Judge Robert Whaley agreed with prosecutors who characterized Richard Forrest, 38, as the mastermind behind the operation.
“I find you were an organizer,” Whaley told Forrest at a three-hour sentencing hearing Thursday.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Earl Hicks said Forrest is “intimidating, violent and dangerous.”
The meth ring’s activities included keeping coded lists of customers and “taxing” them to collect unpaid drug debts.
The process involved taking stereos and other valuables from people who couldn’t come up with the money.
The debt-collecting was backed by illegal firearms and patch-wearing members of the Iron Horsemen and Hells Angels, including Forrest, Hicks said.
At least one of the bill collections involved the abduction-torture of a 25-year-old Spokane man, whose testimony helped prosecutors get the tough sentences. Co-defendant Jack Thomas Lamere admitted carrying out the abduction to work off his own drug debt to Monica Forrest.
Hicks said Richard Forrest would give away meth free at parties to get people hooked into eventually buying the illegal drug.
“Then, if they didn’t pay their bills, they’d be subjected to extortion and violence,” Hicks said.
“The court needs to make this Iron Horsemen hotshot a plastic pony,” the prosecutor told the judge.
But Forrest’s defense attorney, Jeffry Finer, argued that it was Lamere who was the ringleader, involved with his own brand of violence.
The judge sentenced Lamere to 155 months on Tuesday and didn’t buy Finer’s argument.
Richard Forrest’s involvement with drugs came through his sister, Finer said. Forrest moved to Stevens County in 1994 after working as a limousine chauffeur for country-rock stars in the South.
“The testimony does not support `the evil empire’ that has been presented to you by the government,” Finer told the judge.
Forrest was merely helping his sister, Monica, who had been given a large quantity of poor-quality methamphetamine from Mexican suppliers who she feared and owed money, Finer said.
Before the sentencing was over, the burly biker was sniffling and wiping his eyes with Kleenex.
“We sold dope, but we don’t go around beating up people,” Forrest said.
“I’m not saying I’m innocent, but what they’re saying ain’t right,” he told the judge.
But later as Forrest was led from the courtroom with dry eyes, he shouted remarks at task force investigator Joe Pass and Hicks, who said they interpreted them as another threat.
Forrest’s girlfriend, Cheryl M. Rogers, did not cooperate with authorities, who found the largest amounts of methamphetamine at her house. Some of those drugs were in a safe that investigators say belonged to Forrest.
Rogers could have faced more than 18 years in prison, but the judge lowered her potential sentencing range in response to arguments from defense attorney Brian O’Brien.
“You’ve been molded by the negligence of your past,” the judge told Rogers, who grew up in a Chicago family split by drugs and domestic violence.
The lightest sentence went to Debra L. Cochran, 29, who began assisting investigators shortly after her arrest. She was sentenced to five months in jail, followed by five months of home detention.
Deborah Longo, 27, got 87 months for her role in the ring, including selling meth and cocaine, and possessing a sawed-off shotgun.
All the defendants pleaded guilty, so there were no trials. But there were several lengthy court hearings before the equally long separate sentencings on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.
At one point, Hicks said in court that the U.S. Attorney’s Office had been the victim of an attempted extortion by a defense attorney.
Hicks accused Finer of attempting to get a 10-year prison term for Richard Forrest by threatening to ruin the reputation of a detective involved in the case.
Hicks said he ordered Finer from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, refusing to strike a plea bargain with Forrest.
Finer and other defense attorneys later raised questions about the detective’s divorce at a hearing where another judge refused to suppress evidence in the drug case.
Outraged at Hicks’ remarks on Thursday, Finer jumped up and called them an “assassination on my character.”
Whaley reminded both attorneys that the hearing was for the purpose of sentencing Forrest, not for bringing in new evidence.