Man sentenced to 20 years in prison for role in West Coast-to-Pittsburgh drug ring

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A resident of Stockton, Calif., who had a role in a West Coast-to-Pittsburgh drug circuit, was sentenced today to 20 years in prison for conspiracy to distribute more than five kilograms of cocaine.

U.S. District Judge David Cercone found that Ruben M. Mitchell, 45, was involved in the distribution of 69 kilograms of cocaine, and that federal guidelines suggested a sentence of around 16 to 20 years. But since Mitchell has a prior drug conviction, the law mandated a 20-year minimum sentence.

Mitchell’s attorney, William C. Kaczynski, argued that his client had not previously been in trouble with the law since the early 1990s, and that after he was caught attempting to smuggle 19 kilograms of cocaine onto a Pittsburgh-bound flight, he quit the drug business.

“He didn’t quit -- he was fired,” countered assistant U.S. attorney Ross Lenhardt. “When the several million dollars worth of cocaine he was carrying was seized, he was fired from this conspiracy.”

Mitchell was found guilty at trial in Pittsburgh last year. He is accused of being part of a network which, prosecutors claim, had as its Pittsburgh-area boss Robert Russell Spence, of Coraopolis. Mr. Spence has pleaded not guilty.

After release, Mitchell faces 10 years of probation. Mr. Kaczynski said he will appeal.

Rich Lord: or 412-263-1542. Twitter: @richelord.

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