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Man gets 13 years for meth conviction.

Byline: Bill Bishop The Register-Guard

A Eugene man who allowed methamphetamine cooks to operate a lab on a horse ranch he managed in the Coburg Hills and then sold the drug to undercover agents stood in federal court in Eugene on Wednesday, wiped tears from his eyes and said he is ready to face the penalty - 13 years in a federal prison.

Michael Kenneth O'Connor, 38, pleaded guilty to conspiring to distribute methamphetamine and possessing a firearm during a drug crime. The lab operators were never caught, Assistant U.S. Attorney Bud Fitzgerald said.

Acting on a tip, local and federal drug agents put the C-Bow Arrow Ranch, 33435 Van Duyn Road, under surveillance in August 2000. The informant told agents that up to a dozen men were making a large quantity of methamphetamine - up to 80 pounds on a single weekend, according to court records. Fitzgerald could not confirm the size of the lab on Wednesday, but described it as "large" in comparison to other illegal labs found in the area.

O'Connor sold a pound of meth to undercover agents for $7,000 and claimed that he could deliver another 20 pounds for $4,250 per pound, according to court records. O'Connor faced a potential 70-year prison term under federal drug laws.

In court on Wednesday, O'Connor's defense lawyer, Bryan Lessley, said O'Connor sold two pounds of methamphetamine after he became involved in the conspiracy.

"Mr. O'Connor was not a big dealer. He let these people use the ranch to make meth. He shouldn't have done it," Lessley said. "He got rolled up in it. He wasn't at the center of this big drug ring."

Speaking to U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken, O'Connor apologized.

"I made some wrong decisions. I let a lot of people down," he said, referring to several relatives and supporters in the courtroom. "I know that I did wrong and there will be a punishment. I'm here to accept that."

Aiken asked O'Connor if he ever paused to think of the damage done to the people who used the drugs made in the conspiracy, the suffering of children neglected by those drug users and the damage of drug use to society as a whole.

"That addiction is incredibly strong. It's eating people alive," she said. "It is destroying the fabric of our community. It is having a devastating effect throughout the country."

For that reason, Aiken said, federal drug laws are harsh and carry serious costs for taxpayers, as well - $55,000 annually to house each federal inmate.

"We do take it seriously," she said.

Aiken allowed O'Connor 45 days of freedom to make living arrangements for his spouse and two teen-age children before reporting to prison.
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Title Annotation:Michael O'Connor allowed a lab on his property and sold the drug to investigators; Crime
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Feb 27, 2003
Words:453
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