BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) – A man who was convicted of murder in 1969 and went on to work as a legal assistant with the regional public defender’s office in Billings has been found guilty of drug charges.
The Billings Gazette reports a federal jury Thursday convicted Gary Lee Quigg of conspiracy and possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine.
Prosecutors say 68-year-old Quigg and his 48-year-old wife conspired with another co-defendant to distribute meth in Billings in 2014 and 2015.
His wife has also been found guilty in the case.
Quigg testified in his own defense and denied the charges.
A federal jury on Thursday convicted Gary Lee Quigg, a paroled murderer who worked for the state’s Public Defender’s Office in Billings, and his wife of methamphetamine trafficking charges.
The panel deliberated about six hours before finding Quigg and his wife, Dusty Whitehouse, guilty on all counts in an indictment.
The indictment charged each with conspiracy, possession with intent to distribute meth and with distribution. The jury also found that drug quantity was more than 50 grams, rather than the 500 grams alleged by the government.
Quigg and Whitehouse face a minimum mandatory five years to 40 years in prison and a maximum $5 million fine.
District Judge Susan Watters said sentencing would be set for later in May or early June and ordered Quigg and Whitehouse to remain in custody.
Federal prosecutors accused Quigg, 68, and Whitehouse, 48, of conspiring with co-defendant Charity Leigh Mendonsa, 40, of Rancho Mirage, Calif., to distribute meth in the Billings area from about December 2014 until September 2015.
Mendonsa, who pleaded guilty to a possession count as part of plea deal that could reduce her sentence, testified against Quigg and Whitehouse during the four-day trial. Mendonsa is awaiting sentencing and faces a maximum 20 years in prison.
Quigg, who testified in his defense and was his only witness, denied the charges. Quigg said he never provided money for a drug run to California, didn’t sell or use meth and didn’t use his cellphone to arrange drug deals.
Quigg said his wife used meth with Mendonsa but that he had asked Mendonsa not to give Whitehouse meth because he didn’t like what it did to her. He also said he was too broke to get meth and, choking up with emotion on the witness stand, said he couldn’t even afford to buy his wife of five years a wedding ring.
“I never had any money,” Quigg said.
Convicted of murder in 1969, Quigg was paroled in 2006 and went to work for the state Public Defender’s Office in Billings as a legal assistant. Quigg is facing revocation of his parole pending the conclusion of the federal drug case.
Quigg was 21 when he was convicted and sentenced to life in prison for the shooting death of a Billings drug salesman. He was paroled and revoked several times for drug and alcohol violations, then he completed a treatment program prior to his 2006 parole. He had no major violations until the federal indictment.
Whitehouse did not testify and called no witnesses.
Whitehouse’s attorney, Lance Lundvall of Billings, told the jury at the start of the trial Monday that Whitehouse was guilty of distributing meth because she is an addict, but that the sale, which was a recorded undercover deal, involved only 3.7 grams. Whitehouse was not “a big time” drug dealer and didn’t conspire with anyone, Lundvall said.
In closing statements on Thursday morning, Assistant U.S. Attorney Bryan Whittaker of Helena said Quigg and Whitehouse were partners in a conspiracy in which they bought meth from Mendonsa and sold the drug, including selling to a cooperating informant and an undercover agent during a controlled buy.
Both Lundvall and Quigg’s attorney, Vern Woodward of Billings, attacked the government’s evidence as lacking proof of the alleged crimes and called Mendonsa and informants admitted liars who were trying to help themselves.
The government’s case relied on witnesses, including testimony from confidential informants, law enforcement agents, a secretly recorded drug deal and text messages from Quigg’s cellphone, along with other investigative evidence.
Mendonsa, Whittaker said, supplied Quigg and Whitehouse. Mendonsa and her husband, Kevin, who died in April 2015, lived in Molt. Kevin Mendonsa made drug runs to California to supply his wife’s habit and also sold to Quigg, Whitehouse and others, he said.
After Kevin Mendonsa died, Charity Mendonsa began making trips to California to get meth for redistribution in the Billings area.
Charity Mendonsa testified that her husband initially brought back 36 ounces of meth a month for the first two months, then increased the drug amount to about 46 ounces a month. After her husband died from inconclusive causes, Mendonsa said, Quigg and Whitehouse called and told her they had given Kevin $1,800 for meth but that he died two days before a scheduled trip to California.
Mendonsa said she responded that she didn’t have money to refund but that she would go to California to get meth and charge them for it.
Mendonsa further testified that she sold meth to Whitehouse two times, one sale involved an ounce for $800 and a second sale involved four ounces, which was fronted because Whitehouse didn’t have the money at the time. She said she sent her brother to collect the money for the four ounces the next day.
Quigg, Mendonsa testified, called her and was upset for having sold meth to Whitehouse because Whitehouse didn’t have the money and he was tired of cleaning up the mess.