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Stevens gets 20 years in drug case

Hugh M. Stevens, a harness racer who used horse trailers to move illegal drug shipments throughout the United States and Canada, was sentenced Wednesday to 20 years in federal prison.

When Stevens, 63, of Derby, was arrested in 2004, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents called him the transportation coordinator of one of North America's biggest methamphetamine rings.

His wife, former Lackawanna restaurant operator Sandra Jacobi Stevens, 52, was sent to prison for five years for assisting her husband.

The amount of methamphetamine that could have been made with the ephedrine shipped by Stevens was "astronomical . . . astounding," U.S. District Judge William M. Skretny said.

The sentencings concluded a long, bitter court battle between the U.S. attorney's office and Stevens, once a colorful and popular figure in the local harness racing community.

Stevens and his wife claimed for years they were innocent victims, but Stevens last September pleaded guilty to felony charges of conspiracy and engaging in a continuing criminal enterprise.

Speaking in court Wednesday, both Stevens and his wife blamed their convictions on what they called "lies" by a government witness and a prosecutor.

"Injustice has been done here to us, to me," Jacobi Stevens, in tears, told the judge. "The main issue is we didn't know it was methamphetamine. . . . How can you guys convict me and put me in jail for something I didn't do?"

Stevens made similar remarks, even though he pleaded guilty.

A citizen of Scotland who is a legal resident alien in the United States, Stevens has asked for permission to serve part of his prison term in his native country. Prosecutors do not oppose the request, but both the U.S. and Scottish governments still have to approve it.

After a trial in October 2008, Jacobi Stevens was convicted of a smuggling charge and two conspiracy charges, all felonies. She was acquitted of a third conspiracy charge.

DEA tape recordings of Stevens and his wife discussing drug shipments were key pieces of evidence in the case, said federal drug prosecutors Thomas S. Duszkiewicz and Michael DiGiacomo.

The DEA investigation turned up clear evidence that Stevens knew he was breaking the law and that his wife knew it, according to prosecutors.


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