Richie West Changes Plea To 'Guilty'
Richie West pleads guilty to Count 1 in exchange for the dismissal of the other 12 counts.
Richie West appeared in federal court, Friday morning, after reaching a plea agreement with federal prosecutors. West pleaded guilty to Count One, admitting that he was part of a conspiracy to sell prescription drugs. The defendant faced 11 felony drug counts, including conspiracy and distribution charges. Each count carried up to 20 years in prison. He also faced two firearms charges which came with mandatory consecutive sentences of five and 25 years behind bars. By changing Count One to a guilty plea, the other 12 charges were dismissed.
"Yes, there was criminal liability but in my job as a criminal defense lawyer, sometimes it's not all or nothing," David Houston, Richie West's attorney said. "Sometimes what you look for is what the defendant actually is responsible for versus what, perhaps mistakenly, authorities believe he's responsible for."
Judge Miranda Du asked West a wide range of questions, including his role in the alleged conspiracy that included nine defendants, including West and Dr. Robert Rand, who is accused of operating the so-called pill mill.
"I handed off Oxycodone for other people to sell," West testified.
West said he got his prescription pills from Rand because of chronic back pain, but would sell the extra pills to his alleged co-conspirators for them to sell. Prosecutors say the type of activity happened from at least November 13, 2012 until his arrest on April 28, 2016. Judge Du asked West why he was changing his plea.
"Because I did that," West said.
Federal prosecutors recommended a low-end sentence under the Applicable Guideline Range, which is about 70 months in prison, in this case. The judge is not bound by the recommendation, so West could receive a lighter sentence or up to 20 years behind bars.
"When we go back and take a look at where we were and were looking in the zone of somewhere around 50 years, what this amounts to is an opportunity to, at some point in the future, have your life back." Houston said.
Sentencing is set for May 8, and the U.S. recommends low end sentence on the applicable guideline range. Houston says his team will argue for a sentence that is fair, and says West's admission to guilt shows that he accepts responsibility and has remorse.
"To suggest this agreement is a relief and a big weight off his shoulders in this case would definitely be an understatement.
There is no parole for federal prison sentences, but prosecutors asked that West will receive at least three years of supervised release, once his sentence is completed.
Houston expects some of the other defendants to negotiate their cases. Their trials are set to begin in April.