A federal judge in Missoula on Wednesday called James William Quen's career in dealing methamphetamine "prolific," his daily drug use "remarkable," and the ripple effect of his crimes "devastating" before sentencing the Martin City man to prison.
Quen, 49, was sentenced to 12 years in federal prison for possession of meth with intent to distribute, a charge to which he pleaded guilty in March. Charging documents state a lower-level drug dealer implicated Quen to authorities in December 2017, and a week later state and federal law enforcement arrested Quen with 5 pounds of methamphetamine in his vehicle.
The investigation, according to federal authorities, also unearthed Quen's ties to the Vagos Outlaw Motorcycle Gang.
"It appears the words prolific methamphetamine dealer may be an understatement," U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy said. "… The quantity of drugs here is devastating."
Molloy also touched on the homicide charge filed against Quen in 2018. An investigation by the Flathead County Sheriff's Office alleged that Quen had shot and killed 33-year-old Bradley Winters in April 2018 over some money. Quen was held for eight months before prosecutors dismissed the case, citing a lack of enough forensic evidence and cooperation from a key witness to overcome a self-defense argument at trial.
Federal prosecutors pounced on the drug distribution charges when the homicide case was dismissed, and transferred Quen immediately to the Missoula County Detention Center to begin federal proceedings.
Quen appeared in court with a walker on Wednesday. In a statement to the judge, he apologized for his actions and said he wished to be a productive member of society.
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"I know that I committed a crime and I'm 100% at fault," he said. "I was under the influence of narcotics. It's been a long time since I've been sober."
Indeed, Molloy made a nod to Quen's drug use in his own statement on the record, and said a pre-sentence evaluation showed Quen had not been employed for 10 years.
"This acknowledgement that he was using 3.5 grams a day is remarkable," Molloy said.
The judge also spoke of Quen's post-traumatic stress disorder and depression diagnoses, following his "less than honorable" release from the U.S. Marine Corps. These conditions likely played a part in his inability to connect with people, particularly his five children by five different mothers, one of whom he was convicted of assaulting in California in 2001, Molloy said.
There is no parole or early release in federal court, so Quen will likely serve the entire 12 years of his sentence. Upon his release, he will be on federal probation for five years.
In March, Flathead County Undersheriff Wayne DuBois told the Missoulian in a phone interview that Quen activities were "the pinnacle" of drug dealing in the Flathead, and that his crimes had touched countless families and victims of drug addiction.
"We're hopeful to see that decline," he said.