A Flathead County resident who escaped prosecution for a murder he was accused of in 2018 in Martin City was sentenced to 12 years in federal prison for drug dealing.
According to U.S. Attorney Kurt Alme, James William Quen, 49, of Coram, admitted possessing methamphetamine for distribution after law enforcement found five pounds of the drug in his vehicle. Quen will also be on probation for five years following the prison time.
Quen pleaded guilty in March to possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine. Under the plea deal, a conspiracy to distribute meth charge was dropped.
The prosecution said in court records that Quen’s vehicle was stopped for a traffic violation Dec. 16, 2017, in St. Regis. A search warrant was later served on the vehicle and law enforcement recovered five pounds of meth, the equivalent of about 18,120 doses. Investigators also received information that Quen had gone to Oregon to get the meth and had supplied pound quantities to another person, who had seen Quen in possession of 10 pounds of meth.
According to federal court documents, Quen was selling meth both in Flathead and Mineral counties during the summer of 2017.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Tara Elliott prosecuted the case, which was investigated by Homeland Security Investigations and the Northwest Montana Drug Task Force. U.S. District Judge Donald W. Molloy presided.
The case is part of Project Safe Neighborhoods, which is the centerpiece of the Department of Justice’s violent crime reduction efforts.
In April 2018, Flathead County charged Quen with deliberate homicide in the shooting death of Bradley Allen Winters at his Hungry Horse residence.
Quen allegedly shot Winters in the chest after firing several rounds from a .38-caliber revolver, killing Winters.
According to Flathead County District Court documents, the brother of the victim said Quen arrived at the residence on April 25 and a dispute arose over clothes and money. He said he heard the sound of a gun cocking and then multiple shots fired. The victim’s brother said Winters was hit and Quen then left the area.
Quen allegedly admitted to being in a dispute with the victim and his brother over money. According to court documents, Quen allegedly admitted firing rounds from the revolver during the dispute. Quen also allegedly admitted he pointed his revolver at a person and shot him, and understood that person to be Winters, the document stated.
But the case never made it to trial after Flathead County Attorney Travis Ahner dropped the case after key witnesses in the shooting were uncooperative. It was expected Quen would plead self-defense in the case, and according to Ahner, the case was strong as “all of the individuals involved were on meth at the time” of the incident so that eye-witnesses’ testimony could not provide a clear picture of what really took place, he said at the time.
Quen never did see freedom and was immediately held by federal prosecutors on the drug charges.
Reporter Scott Shindledecker may be reached at 758-4441 or firstname.lastname@example.org.