ASPEN - A federal judge has sentenced an Aspen man to 270 days of home work release for his role in a marijuana-trafficking network that ran from Arizona to Wisconsin.
James Wingers, 68, learned of his punishment Wednesday during a sentencing hearing in a federal court in Milwaukee, said his attorney, Stephen M. Komie, of Chicago.
Wingers was arrested Dec. 7, 2007, as the result of an investigation by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration that led to its seizure of 800 pounds of pot in April 2007 in Redstone.
Wingers was among a group of Western Slope residents implicated for passing more than 1,000 pounds of marijuana from Tucson, Ariz., through stash houses in Redstone and Silt to distributors in Wisconsin.
In November 2009, Wingers pleaded guilty to one charge of conspiring to distribute marijuana. In a telephone interview Thursday, Komie said the case stalled because of Wingers' health issues. Wingers attended this week's hearing, which was presided over by Judge Lynn Adelman.
Prosecutor Gail Hoffman had sought 89 months of prison time for Wingers, Komie said. Neither Hoffman nor a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Eastern District of Wisconsin returned messages seeking comment Thursday.
"Mr. Wingers got a very, very fair sentence and benefited substantially for his age and the shifting attitudes in the United States about the legalization of marijuana and his good behavior," Komie said.
Komie noted that Wingers faced similar charges in Tucson in 2006 related to the same pot trafficking ring.
"He completed the probation in Arizona," Komie said, explaining why Adelman gave him a lenient sentence. Wingers served 90 days of jail in Arizona, Komie said.
"They got him on both ends," Komie said.
Adelman also received letters of support for Wingers from six area residents. The letters, which are part of Wingers' case file, described him as a dependable worker who had been plagued by family problems.
"He is knowledgeable of the Aspen area history and is a good representative for my company," wrote Kevin Smiddy, owner of Smiddy Limousine Co. in Aspen. "He never misses a shift and is always on time."
Smiddy wrote that Wingers admitted to making a "stupid mistake" to help pay for financial problems he took on because of a divorce.
Another supporter of Wingers, Deanna Brinkman, of Aspen, wrote that life's problems "forced him into making a foolish decision."
"It was heartbreaking for me to see him deal with this unfortunate situation that he created," she wrote to the judge. "I pray that there is some leniency in his sentencing."
Komie said Wingers will be on probation during the term of his home work release.
"He's 68 years old, and nobody wants him on Social Security and locked up," Komie said.