Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

County farmer pleads guilty to federal drug charges

In a plea agreement, Roosevelt County farmer William “Billy Joe” Watson has pleaded guilty to transporting anhydrous ammonia for methamphetamine manufacture across state lines.

Under federal charges, Watson was accused of buying anhydrous ammonia in Texas and in New Mexico and giving it to federal agents he believed were members of the Aryan Brotherhood criminal organization for use in methamphetamine manufacture. Earlier this year, he was acquitted of state charges of hiring Aryan Brotherhood member Donald Taylor to kill local rancher Jimmie Bo Chunn and providing the anhydrous ammonia as payment.

Watson plead guilty to interstate travel in aid of a racketeering enterprise Monday in federal court in Albuquerque, according to court documents. In exchange, the U.S. Attorney’s Office dropped charges of conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine and possession of firearms in furtherance of drug trafficking, said office spokesman Norman Cairns.

Watson was sentenced to five years in prison, three years of supervised probation after his release, a $25,000 fine and a $100 special penalty assessment, according to court documents.

Watson’s attorney, Gary Mitchell, expects him to be released early next fall with credit for pre-sentencing imprisonment and good time credit. Watson has been in custody since June 2007.

Mitchell said the defense had always admitted that Watson transported the anhydrous ammonia but did so because he thought the agents were Aryan Brotherhood members and feared harm to himself, his family and his friends.

Unlike state law, Mitchell said, federal law makes no provision for entrapment.

“The feds took advantage of this in this particular case,” he said.

Mitchell said even though he hated to do it, he negotiated with prosecutors because Watson had already spent so much time in jail and wanted the situation to end.

“At the end of the day, it seemed about the wisest thing to do,” Mitchell said.

Bo Chunn’s son, Rick Chunn, sent a letter addressed to Watson to be read at the sentencing.

In the letter, Rick Chunn said he believed Watson was either guilty of all charges or innocent of all charges and questioned why Watson plead guilty in federal court to a charge he said he was innocent of in Roosevelt County District Court. Rick Chunn said the plea bargain satisfied neither the Chunn family nor the Watson family and shouldn’t satisfy a judge.