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Juneau man gets 14 years in federal prison for meth conspiracy

Posted: January 26, 2013 - 11:02pm  |  Updated: January 27, 2013 - 1:10am
In this file photo Darrell Dawson appears in state court during for his arraignment last summer. The state charges were later dropped as federal proscecutors charge him with drug conspiracy. Dawson was sentenced Friday to 14 years and one month in federal prison.  Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
In this file photo Darrell Dawson appears in state court during for his arraignment last summer. The state charges were later dropped as federal proscecutors charge him with drug conspiracy. Dawson was sentenced Friday to 14 years and one month in federal prison.

A Juneau man was sentenced to serve 14 years and one month in federal prison for conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine.

Darrell Walter Dawson, 44, was sentenced Friday in federal court in Juneau before U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Burgess.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jack Schmidt said Dawson and co-conspirator — local businesswoman Gema G. Thomas — conspired to transport 50 grams or more of methamphetamine from the Lower 48 to Juneau.

The investigation into the case began when a U.S Postal Inspector became suspicious of a package that was to be delivered to one of Thomas’ businesses, Peer Amid Beads on Front Street. Upon executing a search warrant, law enforcement discovered that the package contained six ounces of 99.4 percent pure methamphetamine. They conducted a controlled delivery of the package and arrested Dawson on July 7 when he went to pick up the drugs from Thomas, police said. Thomas was arrested later in October.

According to Schmidt, Dawson paid Thomas $15,000 for the six ounces, and he arranged for and paid for the drugs to be delivered to Peer Amid Beads.

Upon receipt of the drugs, Thomas gave the drugs to Dawson who then distributed it to others in Juneau and collected drug proceeds for advance payment to Thomas for an additional six ounces.

Thomas, 49, who also owns a bridal shop in the downtown area, pleaded guilty to her role in the conspiracy last month, and she also admitted to using drug proceeds from drug trafficking to pay for her business operating costs and inventory for Bridal Gowns, Formal Wear, and Tuxedo Rentals on Seward Street. She is awaiting sentencing, which is scheduled to take place on March 8 before Burgess in Juneau.

Dawson was originally charged by the state of Alaska on drug-related felony offenses, but those charges were dismissed by the district attorney as the federal case took hold.

Dawson was indicted by a federal grand jury in July, and he pleaded guilty in September.

On Friday, Schmidt said Dawson has an “abysmal” criminal record and he described Dawson as a “career criminal.” Schmidt asked the judge to sentence Dawson to 15 years in prison.

When given a chance to speak, Dawson told the judge about his struggle with addiction which began in high school. He said his addiction grew worse over the years and dominated his life.

He cried as he told the judge it pains him that he hurt his 6-year-old daughter and the rest of his family.

“I’ve hurt myself, my family, my community, my friends, and oh my god, my little girl,” he said.

He vowed to continue fighting his addiction and to have a good attitude about recovery. He said his arrest must have been part of God’s plan to get him off drugs.

“I refuse to believe this is a bad day,” Dawson said.

Dawson’s attorney, James Barrett, noted that his client did not get rich off the conspiracy, and that he was living in Thomas’ garage at the time of his arrest.

The judge said that while it was clear Dawson did not get rich, it still does not diminish the seriousness of the offense.

Conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine is a mandatory 10-year minimum offense. With the “career offender” status, Dawson was facing a higher sentencing range of about 21 to 27 years.

The judge agreed to a downward departure from that range, noting that this sentence was “exponentially greater” than any past prison sentences Dawson has served — the most Dawson had ever served was four years. Burgess also said that despite Dawson being in and out of jail for years, Dawson was never ordered to complete drug offender treatment in the past.

• Contact reporter Emily Russo Miller at 523-2263 or at emily.miller@juneauempire.com.

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