Octogenarian meth smuggler sentenced

Showing leniency, judge gives him home detention

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An 80-year-old man from Sacramento, Calif., who smuggled methamphetamine cross-country, could have faced 11 to 14 years in prison under federal sentencing guidelines, but was instead given home detention in light of his age and infirmity, and a sealed government motion.

A felony sex offender since a 1961 conviction who also served time a decade ago for gun possession, Dominick Spickle pleaded guilty last year to conspiracy to possess and distribute methamphetamine.

In 2012, he had been crossing the country with his Chihuahua, Peanut, bringing highly pure crystal methamphetamine from a young relative to a dealer in his native Westmoreland County. He took responsibility for more than half a pound of the drug transported in two trips before an undercover state trooper busted him.

"It's perplexing that someone his age was involved in drug dealing," said U.S. District Judge Joy Flowers Conti, who sentenced Spickle to time served based on 21/2 months he spent jailed last year, plus five years of probation including a year of home detention.

The judge said he was the oldest person she had ever sentenced. She said the prosecution's motion drove her leniency.

"I was just under stress and was afraid of losing everything I owned when I done this," following a robbery of his house that cost him his savings, Spickle said.

Assistant federal public defender Marketa Sims said there was no need to deter similar people from committing his crime. "There's not going to be a floodgate of 80-year-old men getting involved in this activity."

Spickle's co-conspirator, Kevin Nicol, 58, of Penn Township, was sentenced to five years in prison for the same crime. His meth connection, Joseph Rojas, 28, of Elk Grove, Calif. -- the great-grandson of Spickle's sister -- has not yet been sentenced but likely faces around 10 years in prison.

Rich Lord: rlord@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1542. Twitter: @richelord. First Published February 7, 2014 5:31 PM

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