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Ex-'Mountain Man' to be sentenced on drug charge

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 13, 2013 at 3:54 pm •  Published: January 13, 2013

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — The past is catching up to a former medical marijuana dispensary security guard who is better known for kidnapping a world-class athlete in the 1980s to make her his mountain bride.

Dan Nichols is facing sentencing Thursday for his role in providing security for Montana Cannabis, a large medical marijuana operation that was raided in a 2011 federal crackdown.

A federal prosecutor cited Nichols' history as a reason to give Nichols a prison sentence at the top of the guideline range, which is 57 to 71 months.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Thaggard said Nichols has a violent history and is a recidivist.

"The Defendant is simply a very different person than anyone else involved in this case. He has a history of violent behavior, is at risk to commit future crimes, and is not amenable to supervision," Thaggard wrote in his sentencing memo.

Besides the full 71-month sentence, Thaggard is requesting Nichols be ordered to pay $288,000.

Nichols' attorney argues that Nichols was just a security guard and played no role in the decision-making in the operation. A three-year sentence is more appropriate for Nichols' guilty plea of conspiracy to maintain a drug-involved premises, attorney Chad Wright wrote.

The decision will be up to U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen Thursday in Missoula.

Nichols was the younger half of a father-son duo dubbed "The Mountain Men" who kidnapped biathlete Keri Swenson in 1984. His father, Don Nichols, killed a man who tried to rescue her, while Dan Nichols accidently shot Swenson and left her to die. Swenson survived, but with diminished lung capacity from the gunshot wound.

Dan Nichols, who was 20 at the time, was convicted of kidnapping and misdemeanor assault and received a 10-year prison sentence. His father remains in prison after being convicted of killing would-be rescuer Alan Goldstein.

Dan Nichols was Montana Cannabis' security guard and slept in a trailer behind the operation's greenhouse outside Helena, where hundreds of marijuana plants grew in plain sight of U.S. Highway 12.

It was one of 26 locations targeted in March 14, 2011, federal raids of large marijuana operations across the state. Nichols was not immediately arrested, and that summer he fled from Jefferson County sheriff's deputies who busted an apparent drug deal Nichols was making at an outdoor concert, prosecutors said.

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