Drug sales bring prison—again

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Kevin Murphy/Special to the Gazette
Saturday, November 21, 2009
— A Janesville man sentenced to life in prison 10 years ago for dealing crack cocaine was sentenced Friday in federal court to 24 years and four months in prison after he had re-entered the drug trade.

Christopher C. Bell, 35, received a life sentence in 1998 after being convicted of running a large-scale crack sales operation in Beloit.

Bell was later re-sentenced to 12 years and eight months in prison after Congress retroactively reduced the penalties for crack convictions.

Bell was released last year to a Janesville half-way house where he began talking to another resident about getting back into the drug business, said Assistant U.S. Attorney David Reinhardt. By February, Bell had been released from Rock Valley Community Programs, but still was on probation when he began buying and selling crack and powdered cocaine, Reinhardt said.

Selling cocaine to a government informant alerted local, state and federal authorities that Bell had resumed drug trafficking. During a Feb. 12 traffic stop in Beloit, police noticed two plastic baggies tossed from Bellís car before it was pulled over. Police collected eight grams of crack scattered across a half-block where Bell was stopped, according to court documents.

Bell pleaded not guilty and went to trial, where jurors found him guilty in September on one count of distributing cocaine.

At sentencing on Friday, Bell maintained his innocence and his attorney, Robert Ruth, argued against the governmentís calculation that Bell sold a combined 22 ounces of powder and crack cocaine.

However, District Judge Barbara Crabb said she could use Bellís own statements to police to determine he had sold the amount alleged by the government.

Crabb, who had presided at Bellís 1998 trial, said she was disappointed that Bell was back selling drugs so soon after being released from prison.

She gave him the minimum prison term under the advisory sentencing guidelines, which factored in Bellís prior conviction, re-offending while on probation, using a minor, his son, to toss cocaine from a car, and giving false statements at trial.

Last updated: 11:54 am Thursday, December 13, 2012

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