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Feb 1, 2013 3:43 PM by Irina Cates - KPAX News

1 of 3 MT Cannabis owners sentenced to federal prison

MISSOULA - A man who was convicted on eight federal drug and firearms charges in connection with the former statewide medical marijuana dispensary Montana Cannabis was facing 85 years in prison after being found guilty.

But after an unusual post-conviction compromise with the prosecutors, Chris Williams will serve five years behind bars, in addition to the 130 days he already spent in jail.

U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen said that he felt that an "85-year sentence in this case would be unjust."

So he suggested that the prosecutors and the defense meet together in a settlement conference. Williams agreed in that conference to withdraw motions for acquittal and a new trial and in exchange, the prosecutors dismissed six of the charges.

Prosecutors say Williams was one of the leaders in the Montana Cannabis operation that federal agents raided in 2011, where investigators seized more than 40 firearms in that raid, as well as marijuana.

Prosecutors said some of Williams' employees were paid with marijuana, which they later sold to people who were not patients and that those working for him were also trafficking the drug. They added that Williams and of the some of his employees also carried guns.

Williams told the judge during the sentencing, "I never went into this business intending to violate the law."

He also said that even after the raids and going through the court process, he "never lost respect for law enforcement or anyone."

He also said that he believed in the system and that's why he chose to go to trial.

Williams and Missoula business owner, Jason Washington, are the only people in Montana to go to trial after being indicted in connection to their medical marijuana businesses.

Washington's sentencing is set for May.

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