Five months ago, James Langnes spoke in a courtroom as a victim for the first time.
The federal Drug Enforcement Administration agent returned to Walworth County on Friday to speak again about his exposure to a methamphetamine cook in September 2017.
The gas in a thick glass bottle was so pressurized that it burned through Langnes’ protective mask after he opened the bottle. He said it felt like he had dunked his head in a bucket of ammonia.
Meth and its waste are hazardous. Langnes will likely have a sinus headache for the rest of his life. More serious health consequences could arise later.
Langnes wanted Angelica M. Bowey, who is called “Angel” by her lawyer and others, to serve prison time for her role in making meth.
“I can’t imagine that someone could possibly give me a headache for the rest of my life and not serve time in prison,” Langnes said.
Judge Daniel Johnson acknowledged the dangers of meth’s “scourge” on the community and how this was not a victimless crime. But he decided Friday against prison for Bowey.
He weighed Bowey’s lack of a criminal record, current employment and her time substance-free before the hearing and sentenced her to one year in jail and two years of probation.
“This is a very difficult case,” Johnson said. “Because you have those gravity-of-the-offense factors, which are so high and so critical to me, and then you have Ms. Bowey’s character, which is … incongruent with the gravity of the offense.”
Bowey, 26, of 119.5 N. Wisconsin St., Elkhorn, in June pleaded guilty to two counts of possessing drug paraphernalia, one of which was paraphernalia to make meth.
Court documents show Bowey admitted last fall to making meth at least three times with Krista Stoll Wobig, who was sentenced to prison at the hearing Langnes spoke at in March.
Surveillance footage showed Bowey and Stoll Wobig at a Delavan Walgreens, according to a criminal complaint. Materials commonly used to make meth can be bought at drug stores.
Not long after the two left the Walgreens, an off-duty sheriff’s lieutenant saw Stoll Wobig dump a bag of meth materials into a field in the town of Delavan, the complaint states.
Assistant District Attorney Haley Johnson asked for two years in prison.
Bowey’s lawyer, Carol Unger, said Bowey had abused prescription drugs and used marijuana and cocaine in the past. Bowey has been receiving treatment for her substance use, however.
Bowey used drugs “to cover up the hurt and pain” of her childhood, Unger said.
In a brief statement, Bowey apologized to Langnes and to the court. She said she hit “rock bottom” in jail and now was capable of moving her life “forward in a positive direction.”
“Those changes don’t help Agent Langnes at all,” Judge Johnson said.
With his sentence, Johnson said he was giving Bowey the benefit of the doubt even though he was not sure she deserved it.
If Bowey violates her probation, Johnson promised he would remember his words to her.
Bowey has two weeks to report to the Walworth County Jail. The first six months of her sentence will be without work-release, which means she likely will lose her current job in hotel housekeeping.
Langnes was not the only one affected by the case.
The family living in the same building was “uprooted,” Judge Johnson said, and had to move out. The children were bullied in school because some people erroneously thought their family was involved in cooking meth.
“We don’t know how many other children and people who may get cancer 10 years down the road because of this defendant and her co-actors,” Langnes said.
The effects of meth contamination are far-reaching and long-lasting, he said.
“When they cook this stuff, it contaminates everywhere they cook. That means the next people who move in or the next people who stay at that hotel room...” Langnes said before pausing for a second. “Cooking meth is not a victimless crime.”