A Casper man whose sales of fentanyl to a local woman nearly killed her will spend 10 years behind bars, according to the sentence he received in federal court in Casper on Friday.

Ronnell Lee Robertson heard the sentence, including four years supervised probation after release from custody, handed down by Chief U.S. District Court Judge Scott Skavdahl.

The hearing started with Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Elmore telling the court that an unofficial total of 136 people died from fentanyl in 2022 in Wyoming, preceded by 106 in 2021, and at least 90 in 2020.

Robertson's defense attorney Eric Palen also said it was a heavy, but appropriate sentence, considering he would have received a much higher one if he went to trial and was convicted. (If Robertson was convicted at trial, he could have faced a sentence of nearly 16 to nearly 20 years imprisonment.)

Robertson, born in 1987, gave a tearful apology for his crime, saying he has started a business and has a wife and five children.

He wants to live a better life and tell his two teenage sons to not stray and stay strong.

Skavdahl responded that he weighs the pros and cons of a sentence.

On one side, the judge noted Robertson's hard childhood: he grew up without parents -- they were drug addicts -- and that he left home at 14, joined a gang, and used and sold drugs to survive.

On the other hand, Robertson left Washington state to leave behind a hard life, but "Washington didn't leave you."

While the criminal complaint leading to his arrest last fall mentioned the U.S. Postal Inspector intercepted one package of fentanyl pills mailed from Tacoma, Washington, there were others.

Citing Elmore's comment, Skavdahl said, "We have people dying left and right."

People don't know what they're taking because the pills containing fentanyl are identified as OxyContin and Percocet, and there is no identification of the dose, he said.

One of Robertson's customers who paid $28 a pill for what she thought was oxycodone overdosed and was taken to an emergency room, according to court documents. Robertson later sold her pills and she overdosed again.

The postal inspector told Robertson about that incident, and he "had no idea the the pills contained fentanyl," according to the criminal complaint.

Skavdahol told Robertson that if that victim had died, he would be facing a minimum 20-year prison sentence.

Before handing down the sentence, the judge said the greatest impact of the punishment will be on Roberton's family.

Robertson's children wrote him letters, Skavdahl said, adding "take the letters they wrote and put them under your pillow, because you're going to need them.

The judge encouraged Robertson, saying how he responds and grows in prison is ultimately up to him.

"You've a long way," Skavdahl said. "You have a long way to go."

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