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Turn signal infraction leads to felon’s 20-year sentence in federal prison

UPDATED: Thu., Aug. 30, 2018, 8:39 p.m.

Michael C. Painter, 32, seen here in in 2007 when he was 21, was sentenced Thursday to 20 years in federal prison stemming from a traffic stop in January. Painter’s driver failed to signal a turn which prompted a traffic stop that led to his arrest for a felon in possession of a firearm and possession of methamphetamine. (Courtesy of Secret Witness)
Michael C. Painter, 32, seen here in in 2007 when he was 21, was sentenced Thursday to 20 years in federal prison stemming from a traffic stop in January. Painter’s driver failed to signal a turn which prompted a traffic stop that led to his arrest for a felon in possession of a firearm and possession of methamphetamine. (Courtesy of Secret Witness)

Michael C. Painter’s driver didn’t use her turn signal last January. The traffic stop ended up costing Painter 20 years in federal prison.

U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Rice on Thursday sentenced Painter, 32, a previously convicted felon, to 240 months in federal prison after he pleaded guilty to possessing more than 50 grams of methamphetamine and illegally brandishing a firearm.

Rice also sentenced Painter to an additional two years in prison after finding that he had violated court supervision stemming from a previous firearm-related conviction, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

That 24-month sentence will run concurrently with the 20-year sentence.

“The sentence imposed today sends a strong message to individuals who commit drug- and firearm-related crimes in the Eastern District of Washington,” U.S. Attorney Joseph Harrington said in a news release.

It all started with the blinker.

On Jan. 14, Painter was a passenger in a car driven by a woman who failed to use her signal while making a routine turn. Spokane County sheriff’s deputy Krystal Bitzer noticed the infraction and stopped the car, according to court records.

Bitzer “determined Mr. Painter had an active Washington State Department of Corrections warrant” and took him into custody. The search following the arrest found that Painter had a .40 caliber Glock in his waistband and about 59 grams of meth in his pocket.

After obtaining a search warrant for the car, sheriff’s deputies discovered a bag under the seat that Painter had been occupying. The bag containing a stolen 9 mm handgun and more than 220 grams of meth, according to court records.

At the time of the traffic stop, Painter was serving a term of supervised release after previously pleading guilty to a felon in possession of a firearm stemming from an arrest in 2013.

In that case, Painter attempted to elude Spokane police in a 2000 Dodge Stratus. Painter crashed the car during his attempts to flee law enforcement. An officer trying to locate the car’s registration saw a pistol in the glove compartment and under the airbag, which had deployed.

“I commend the law enforcement officers with ATF, FBI and Spokane County Sheriff’s Office for their excellent investigative work in this case,” Harrington said.


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