Casper Woman Gets 3-Year Drug Sentence Because of ‘Safety Valve’ Guidelines
A Casper woman could have faced five years federal imprisonment for her guilty plea to conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine and fentanyl.
But on Tuesday, Tawna Goodwin-McMurry received a sentence of three years imprisonment because of a "safety valve" in federal sentencing guidelines that took into consideration several factors.
Chief Wyoming U.S. District Court Judge Scott Skavdahl handed down the prison sentence and four years supervised probation after her release from custody, and ordered Goodwin-McMurry to pay $500 for community restitution, $175 to the Wyoming Department of Corrections, $375 to the Wyoming Behavioral Health Division, and a $100 special assessment.
Under federal sentencing guidelines, the sentence for this crime is five years to 40 years imprisonment, up to a $5 million fine, four years of supervised probation after release from custody and a $100 special assessment.
Federal sentencing guidelines work on a grid of an offense level, 19 in Goodwin-McMurry's case, and a criminal history, 2 in this case.
But the "safety valve" took into consideration several aspects of the crime, her attorney Keith Nachbar said after the hearing.
Goodwin-McMurry never had a criminal record, Nachbar said. Nor did her crime involved violence or a gun, and she took responsibility for her actions.
During the hearing, Assistant U.S. Attorney David Kubichek said the "safety valve" was appropriate, adding the mandatory minimum of five years would have been unnecessarily punitive. The lower sentencing range of 33 months to 41 months was appropriate, he added.
Goodwin-McMurry told Skavdahl, "I'm going to take full responsibility for my actions."
The judge, referring to the pre-sentence report, said she had a rough childhood and her lower back pain led to her use of opioids.
"Any addiction is tragic," Skavdahl said, adding that most addictions end in death.
He didn't think either the lower end of the proposed sentence range -- 33 months -- was appropriate, or the high end -- 41 months -- was appropriate, either.
So Skavdahl settled on the 36-month sentence.
He also would ask the Federal Bureau of Prisons to have her placed in prisons either in Texas or West Virginia that could offer her the 500-hour Residential Drug Abuse Program, as well as education and vocational training.
"I wish you the best of luck," Skavdahl said.
The case started in January 2021 by Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation, and initially focused on Reggie Dale Nelams, according to an affidavit by a DCI agent that requested an arrest warrant.
DCI agents tracked Nelams with a GPS tracker on his vehicle, observed him traveling to and from Denver to buy controlled substances, conducted a traffic stop and found more than 400 grams -- 14.2 ounces -- of methamphetamine and more that 130 grams of counterfeit Oxycodone pills containing fentanyl.
After a forensic download and review of his phone, agents learned of more than 10 co-conspirators in Wyoming including Goodwin-McMurry.
Information in the ledgers in Nelams' phone indicated she bought several ounces of methamphetamine and more than 200 fentanyl pills from him.
Nelams pleaded guilty on March 8, and his sentencing is scheduled for July 28.