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O'Brien gets 4 years for meth distribution conspiracy

MISSOULA -- Former Montana State assistant head football coach Joe O'Brien was sentenced Friday to four years in prison for his role in a methamphetamine distribution conspiracy.

District judge Donald Molloy also sentenced O'Brien, 31, to eight years of supervised release and ordered him to perform 500 hours of community service. As part of a plea agreement, O'Brien forfeited $23,442.

O'Brien pleaded guilty in July to conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine, distribution of meth near a school and 24 counts of money laundering.

Prosecutors said O'Brien ordered meth from a source in California and had it sent via Federal Express to residences in Bozeman for further distribution, after taking amounts for his own use. One of those houses was within 1,000 feet of Montana State University.

Prosecutors said O'Brien laundered $13,400 personally or through another person wiring proceeds of drug sales via MoneyGram or Western Union to Alberto Perez, 38, in Antioch, Calif.

Perez was sentenced to five years and 10 months in prison Friday, with four years of supervised release.

Molloy also sentenced two other co-defendants.

Melissa Strain of Bozeman, who admitted selling meth obtained from O'Brien in exchange for amounts for personal use, was sentenced to three years in prison.

It was Strain who set up a controlled delivery of meth to O'Brien in Townsend in September 2003 that led to his arrest.

Prosecutors said Bozeman police officers had been investigating reports that Strain was selling meth when they learned a parcel addressed to Strain was in the FedEx system. Drug dogs indicated the presence of dangerous drugs in the parcel.

Officers confronted Strain when she picked up the package. Strain told the officers that O'Brien had asked her to meet him in Helena with the meth. The meeting was later planned for Townsend.

Another co-defendant, Matthew Monts, 20, of Bozeman, was sentenced to two years in prison. He admitted distributing meth obtained from Strain.

O'Brien, a native of Pittsburg, Calif., was an All-American defensive lineman at Boise State in 1994. He joined the MSU coaching staff in 2000 and resigned about two weeks after his arrest.