Casper Man Pleads Guilty to Federal Gun, Drug Counts
Ryan Jase Harkins, whose case started with a raid of his house on M Street in Casper in October, pleaded guilty to a firearm and a drug crime in federal court on Wednesday.
The court combined several hearings into one as Harkins made his initial appearance, waived his indictment and entered the guilty pleas before Chief Wyoming U.S. District Court Judge Scott Skavdahl in Casper.
The criminal information document filed March 10 listed two counts:
- Felon in possession of a firearm, which is punishable by up to 15 years imprisonment.
- Possession with intent to distribute a mixture of a substance containing methamphetamine, which is punishable by up to 20 years imprisonment.
Harkins pleaded guilty to these two counts after he waived his right to have his case presented to a grand jury, during which which prosecutors would present evidence that he probably committed those crimes. If the grand jury agreed, it would hand up an indictment, Skavdahl said.
According to the estimated federal sentencing guidelines, Skavdahl said Harkins would face between four years, nine months imprisonment and five years, 11 months imprisonment.
Federal sentencing guidelines are based on a calculation of a defendant's criminal history and the level of the offense. In Harkins' case, the base level was enhanced for the possession of a firearm, but trimmed for his acceptance of responsibility.
Harkins' sentence would be on the high end -- five years, 11 months -- of that number, the judge said.
Skavdahl said he is not a party to the plea agreement, which was arranged by the federal prosecutor David Kubichek and Harkins' defense attorney Ryan Semerad.
Skavdahl ordered a probation officer to conduct a pre-sentence report in which Harkins' personal, family and criminal history will be recorded and assessed.
The results of that will not be announced until Harkins' sentencing, which Skavdahl set for June 13.
If Skavdahl rejects the plea agreement and the recommendation in the pre-sentence report, he said Harkins can withdraw his plea and the case would be set for trial.
After the pleas, Kubichek argued Harkins should be taken into custody.
Harkins has been free on bond.
Semarad disagreed, saying bond should continue until his sentencing because he did not commit a crime of violence, he is not a flight risk, and he qualifies under an exception in part because of his acceptance of responsibility.
Skavdahl agreed with the first two points, but said the law would not allow Harkins to remain free.
He ordered Harkins taken into custody because of the circumstances of his case and the possibility that his punishment could be enhanced because he is a career criminal.
Unlike many cases when a defendant is taken into custody, the judge allowed him to speak briefly with his family in the courtroom before being handcuffed and led away by U.S. Marshals.
The federal case, and facts stated by Harkins during his pleas Wednesday, arose from a local investigation based on tips that he was using and selling illegal drugs at his home, according to court documents.
On Oct. 21, officers with the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation executed a search warrant at Harkins' residence in the 400 block of East M St.
They found controlled substances in plain sight and requested a second warrant.
During the execution of the second warrant, agents found a large safe in Harkins' bedroom. He refused to give the combination, so they called the Casper Fire-EMS Department to help open it, according to court documents.
Once opened, agents found Harkins' identification, other documents with his name on them, approximately 345 grams -- 12.3 ounces -- of suspected marijuana, approximately 281 grams -- 10 ounces -- of suspected methamphetamine and approximately 5.3 grams of fentanyl pills.
They also found a pistol.
Elsewhere in the house, agents found suspected marijuana, suspected mushrooms, suspected methamphetamine and one suspected fentanyl pill.
\Meanwhile, the agent received a copy of Harkins' federal judgment for his 2000 conviction of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine and cocaine.
Back then, former U.S. District Judge Clarence Brimmer sentenced him to two years six months imprisonments, according to federal court records.