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Jury returns guilty verdict against Juneau meth dealer

Posted: Thursday, March 03, 2011

A jury returned a verdict of guilty in United States District Court in Juneau on Wednesday for a local man on trial for distribution of methamphetamine.

Ryan Budd Burnett, 28, was found guilty of a single charge involving conspiracy to distribute and possession of meth with the intent to distribute, a class ‘A’ felony that can carry a life sentence.

Burnett will be sentenced May 13. Due to the fact that Burnett was transporting 50 grams or more of the drug, he faces a mandatory minimum of 10 years in prison.

“He could be in for a long time,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Jack Schmidt said. “He will be in for at least 10. He brought 230-some grams of methamphetamine. He wasn’t going to use it himself.”

Defense attorney Kirsten Swanson declined to comment.

Before the jury returned their verdict, they asked Judge Timothy Burgess to hear again the testimony of a witness who agreed to testify in exchange for a promise by the government that a previous court ruling in the witness’ favor would not be appealed and charges against her dismissed. Burgess had the courtroom sealed so only the jury could review the roughly 1 1/2-hour recording of the testimony.

“I think the jury did their job,” Schmidt said. “They reviewed the testimony that was important to the case involving the corroborator and based on that made their decision.”

Schmidt said the amount of methamphetamine coming into Juneau is significantly less than it was 10 years ago.

“And that is due to a lot of the precursors being outlawed,” Schmidt said. “Like every drug in Juneau meth is pretty prevalent. In a town of 30,000 (people) this is a lot of methamphetamine to be taken off the street.”

Due to the passing of various state laws around the nation, such as Illinois’ Methamphetamine Precursor Control Act in 2005 and a 2006 Alaska law, the sale of over-the-counter medications that contain substances used to make meth — such as ephedrine, pseudoephedrine and phenylpropanolamine — is now limited. Now, a legally purchased medicine that has a precursor has in it can only be bought in one-packet increments, and buyers are limited as to how much of the substance they can by each month.

“Typically when we take a large amount of drugs off that are coming to Juneau we will see a spike in prices on the street,” Port of Seattle Police Officer Cory Stairs said. “That means people are having trouble finding it so the price will go up or we will have informants tell us it is hard to get because we took so much off. For example, Ryan Burnett was the main guy for a lot of people here in Juneau.”

The case against Burnett involved his flying to Seattle on Nov. 7 and purchasing meth. Witness and police testified he purchased plane travel for a “mule” or drug courier to fly to Seattle on Nov. 8. Burnett picked the mule up at the airport and they partied at his friend’s house and shopped.

Videotape showed the two at a Target store and Burnett paying for the items that would be used to conceal the meth. Burnett, in effect, organized the trip and the return flight to Juneau.

The mule was stopped, searched and arrested at Seattle International Airport on Nov. 11 with the meth on his or her person. Burnett was contacted at the departing gate, denied knowing the mule, or even his own name, and was subsequently detained.

“We’re happy,” Schmidt said. “I am just glad that the United States can be a service to Southeast Alaska and help effectuate and target specific individuals that are into the distribution game for all sorts of narcotics and hopefully make our community better and safer.”

• Contact Klas Stolpe at 523-2263 or at klas.stolpe@juneauempire.com.



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