Hunter S. Thompson pal Montgomery Chitty loses appeal over "vindictive" cocaine sentence

In his heyday, Montgomery Chitty was a prominent Aspen resident and pal of area celebrities such as the late Hunter S. Thompson and Ed Bradley.

Lately, however, he's been hanging out with inmates, owing to his conviction in relation to a cocaine operation that ran between Aspen and L.A. for years -- and his attempt to get his twenty-year sentence tossed or reduced was rejected after he failed to convince a judge the punishment was influenced by "mean spirited retaliation." Details below.

According to the Aspen Times, Chitty was a Thompson running buddy as well as a one-time consultant to the Democratic National Committee. He was also reportedly a researcher for Bradley, best known for his many years as a correspondent for 60 Minutes -- and a post on Ruby-Sapphire.com from 2011 recaps his adventures as a gem hunter in Tanzania.

The same year, however, Chitty, who's now 62, was implicated in a cocaine ring that was said to have trafficked in excess of 200 kilograms of the drug. Specifically, Chitty is said to have met with a supplier in Nevada every three or four months from 2002 to 2010, purchasing four-to-five kilograms at a time and then selling it to coke dealers in Aspen.

Chitty was eventually arrested in Big Pine Key, Florida in February 2012 on conspiracy charges, the Times reports. Joining him in custody were nine others, including six from the Aspen-Snowmass area, all of whom were in their fifties or sixties.

In April 2013, Chitty was found guilty and handed a mandatory-minimum sentence of twenty years in prison, in part because of a sentence enhancement linked to a 1990 conviction in Louisiana for marijuana smuggling that he says blindsided him at the last minute. This miffed Chitty, as is clear from the judge's response to his appeal. That document is on view below in its entirety, but one passage notes that learning "just days before trial" about the enhancement convinced Chitty that the twenty-year sentence "was no more than a mean-spirited retaliation to punish [him] for his decision to pursue his constitutional right of trial by jury...."

Likewise, he was chapped that some of his co-conspirators got lighter sentences than he did. As such, the document notes that Chitty "requests resentencing without the statutory enhancement, contending the government's decision to file the Information constitutes vindictive prosecution because it knew of Mr. Chitty's 1990 conviction two years prior to the filing of the Information when it filed the wiretap affidavit but, instead, elected to wait to file it until the same day as his counsel's motion to withdraw and one month prior to his trial."

This eccentric argument was a no-go, however. In his ruling, U.S. Circuit Judge Wayne Brorby wrote that "not only has [Chitty] failed to establish an error which is plain in the government's timing in filing the Information, but even if an error somehow occurred, he has not shown a reasonable probability that, but for the error claimed, he would not have received the mandatory minimum sentence of twenty years or that a strong possibility exists he would have received a significantly lower sentence absent the error.

"Mr. Chitty has also not shown the three other conspirators, who received sentences of four years or less, participated in equivalent conduct, including the same or similar drug quantities or supervisory roles, or that they had prior convictions which would make them subject to the same mandatory minimum sentence of twenty years for the purpose of demonstrating prosecutorial vindictiveness in his particular case," Brorby continued, adding, "His cursory argument on this subject is less than persuasive."

As such, Chitty won't be returning to Aspen anytime soon. Here's the complete ruling.

United States v. Chitty

Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.

More from our News archive circa January 2012: "Charles Farrar: Appeal denied in sex-abuse case despite 'victim' recanting."

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