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Terry given 20 years for drug distribution

by Derrick Perkins Western News
| January 3, 2020 10:44 AM

A Libby man convicted on four counts of criminal distribution of dangerous drugs was sentenced to 20 years behind bars Dec. 27.

A jury found Walter Lee Terry, 36, guilty on all counts Nov. 13. Handing down the sentence, Lincoln County District Court Judge Matthew Cuffe said the length of the stint behind bars provided protection for the community and “incentivized him to become a productive citizen and leave his criminal behavior behind.”

Authorities arrested Terry after more than a year of investigation. According to an affidavit by Detective Nate Scofield, law enforcement conducted their first controlled purchase of methamphetamine from Terry in May 2018.

Using an informant, Scofield and then-Detective Brad Dodson arranged to buy two grams of methamphetamine for $200 at a local trailer park. The informant was wearing a wire, according to the affidavit.

After making the purchase and learning Terry allegedly had more to sell, the investigators worked with the informant to buy an “eight ball,” or about 3.5 grams, of methamphetamine for $300 later in the day.

While the sale — also recorded — went through, the informant returned with just 2.3 grams of methamphetamine. Upon learning of the discrepancy, the detectives had the informant call Terry. He claimed to have incorrectly weighed the drugs and promised to fix it, but never did, court documents said.

On June 14, 2018, authorities organized another undercover purchase. This time, the undercover informant arranged to meet with Terry at a local gambling establishment to buy $100 worth of methamphetamine, according to the affidavit.

During the buy, Terry offered to sell the informant an eight ball for $200, court documents said. The deal later changed to a fourth of an ounce of methamphetamine for $400.

This time, the informant parked near an elementary school and walked across the street to meet with Terry, court documents said. The detectives learned after the buy that Terry gave the informant 5.4 grams instead of the 7 grams they agreed upon.

“Terry has a very well known past for being a thief,” Scofield wrote. “I also know that it is not uncommon for drug dealers to sometimes short the amount they sell to better their profit margin.”

The next controlled purchase did not occur until May 2019. Writing in an affidavit, Dodson said that investigators took a break from Terry “with the understanding that [he] had pending charges.”

When those charges weren’t filed, Dodson arranged an informant to buy $100 for a gram of methamphetamine, although Terry shorted them again, according to court documents. Investigators ended up with just .7 gram, the affidavit said.

There were few details available about Terry’s arrest, but in a June 28 bond reduction hearing, Cuffe noted that Terry attempted to evade law enforcement after they secured a warrant. Specifically, Terry scaled a bridge to avoid detection, Cuffe said.

“It is also established that the defendant has a history of trying to evade law enforcement,” Cuffe wrote in court documents. “The defendants actions on that night are consistent with his general disregard to law enforcement and the judicial system.”

Authorities originally charged Terry with five counts of criminal distribution of dangerous drugs, but dropped one charge because the staff at the Montana Crime Lab had not yet finished testing the evidence. Cuffe sentenced Terry to 20 years in state prison for the first count. Terry earned suspended 10-year sentences for the other three to run concurrent to his jail term. He also was fined $2,000 — $500 for each count — with the money destined for the Lincoln County Drug Fund.