Missoula man gets 2 years in prison for sharing medical marijuana
By JENNA CEDERBERG of the Missoulian 5/17
Get ready to pick your jaw up off the floor……read carefully OFF DUTY COP SPOTS PATIENT…….PASSING HIS MEDICINE IN A CAR…-UA
District Judge Dusty Deschamps applied that description to Matthew Otto’s most current offense.
But in sentencing Otto Tuesday, Deschamps took into account Otto’s extensive criminal history as justification for the sentence.
Deschamps sentenced Otto, 27, to 20 years after a jury convicted him on one count of criminal distribution of dangerous drugs in March. Two years will be served at the Montana State Prison and will run concurrently with a previous sentence. Another 18 years are suspended and will be served under Department of Corrections supervision.
Those last 18 years will run consecutive with a sentence for a probation violation in a 2008 charge Otto is currently serving.
Among other conditions, Otto cannot use medical marijuana and must earn his GED within a year.
Otto had 3 grams of medical marijuana when he was arrested in November. Otto had a medical marijuana card, but was found guilty of passing the pipe filled with the drug to two passengers while driving down Reserve Street. An off-duty Missoula County sheriff’s detective saw and reported the incident.
The maximum penalty for criminal distribution is life in prison and a $50,000 fine. However, the Montana Supreme Court ruled in 1983, in State v. Arbgast, that state law allows for deferred or suspended sentences in cases involving marijuana sales.
Otto’s extensive criminal history was the focus of discussion on Tuesday.
Calling Otto a “persistent felony offender,” Deputy County Attorney Andrew Paul recommended five years in prison.
Paul noted that Otto had nearly 30 juvenile convictions before he racked up multiple theft and parole violation convictions as an adult. Otto “has zero interest in changing his life,” Paul told the judge.
Otto told the judge he was in the middle of rethinking his “big giant piece of crap” life, may need medication for mental health problems and wanted just one more chance to get it right.
Deschamps granted that request by reducing Paul’s sentence recommendation of five years in prison to two. But, he cautioned Otto: “If you come in here again, you’re looking at 20 years in the state prison.”