Montana legislator turned drug dealer Michael Lange learned at his Thursday sentencing hearing that he will spend a lengthy amount of time in federal prison for trafficking methamphetamine in Billings.
Lange, 57 years old, was sentenced in U.S. District Court in Billings to 18 years in prison for two felony drug distribution charges.
Lange served three terms as a state lawmaker and even served as Republican house majority leader before he was ousted in 2007, following a profanity-laden outburst about Democratic Gov. Brian Schweitzer.
Prosecutors said Thursday that Lange managed the distribution of more than 20 pounds of meth from Mexico to Billings.
Assistant U.S. Attorney John Sullivan said Lange’s co-defendant was the “gas in the car and Lange was the engine.”
Lange minimized his role, saying he was misguided by a friend and never intended to be so involved.
“What did you think would happen?” said Judge Susan Watters at sentencing. “This is not a mystery. This is not a misguided friendship. You don’t get it.”
Billings police Detective Mike Robinson testified that Lange had about 15 co-conspirators, some who have never been identified.
Text messages exchanged between Lange and some of his conspirators were read aloud by Robinson.
Lange was referred to in the messages as “boss” and prosecutors argued it was clear that Lange was managing the operation.
Through the operation, Lange collected and paid his supplier as much as $70,000 in methamphetamine distribution funds, according to Robinson.
Lange, who actually donated money to the drug prevention program Montana Meth Project, claimed Thursday that he never made a penny from the trafficking operation.
“The truth is different from what you’ve heard,” said Lange. “I assisted, I helped, but in no way was I the boss. I was naïve in thinking I could help others by allowing them to do what they did.”
Watters told Lange his inability to take responsibility for his major role was incredible, considering he was sentenced to just over a year in prison in 2014 for distributing meth in California.
“It couldn’t have been months after you were released for that crime that you began this new operation,” said Watters.
Prosecutors requested a 28 year prison sentence, calling Lange’s impact on the community “devastating.”
“This quantity of meth is like a big rock dropped in the Billings pond with a ripple effect that’s far reaching,” said Sullivan.