Once A Republican Montana House Member, Michael Lange Gets 18 Years For Drug Trafficking

Former Montana legislator sentenced to 18 years in federal prison.
Marc Levy / AP Images

A former Montana lawmaker in the state’s House of Representatives, who supported a bill that gave $4 million of taxpayer money to fight methamphetamine use, was sentenced to 18 years in prison yesterday for drug trafficking. Once the Republican House Majority Leader in the legislature, Michael David Lange is now a common criminal.

As reported by the Billings Gazette, on Thursday, the 57-year-old Lange was convicted of playing a “central role” in a gang of drug dealers who sold large quantities of the very drug Lange spent taxpayer money to campaign against, which was methamphetamine.

He was convicted of bringing 20 pounds of meth from Mexico to Billings, where he played a role in distributing it. He was also convicted of other drug crimes.

In September, Lange, who served three terms of two years each in the Montana legislature, pleaded guilty to drug conspiracy and drug distribution charges, and the prosecution asked for a 28-year-sentence. In her ruling yesterday, U.S. District Judge Susan Watters said that a sentence like that was likely “excessive.”

Lange’s defense attorney, Ashley Harada, asked Watters for a sentence of 10 years, and while the judge found that too lenient, she did give Lange a break, sentencing him to six years less than the 24 to 30 years recommended for such felony convictions.

Prosecutor John Sullivan noted that Lange had “held a very respectable position as a Montana politician,” and he added that “for him to turn around and do this to a community in which he has lived for so long has a truly staggering effect.”

While Lange apologized for his actions, he sought to convince the judge that his role in the drug trade was not a leading one and that he did it primarily to accommodate friends. Judge Watters, however, was not buying any of the defendant’s excuses.

“I think you completely minimized your role,” she told him. “You’ve got no one to blame but yourself, Mr. Lange.”

In the U.S. federal system, there is essentially no parole. Inmates can be given an earlier release for good behavior but must serve 85 percent of their time. So, the former leading Republican lawmaker in the Montana House will be behind bars, at a minimum, until he is 72-years-old.

Lange told the court, “it was never my intent for this to happen.”