How did a Boise man get out of a life sentence?

U.S. District Court in Boise
U.S. District Court in Boise

A Boise man once ordered to prison for life will receive a much lighter sentence after his drug conviction was overturned and he pleaded guilty this week to a new charge.

Jim Allen Loveland, 60, pleaded guilty Wednesday to possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute. He faces up to 20 years in prison when he’s sentenced Nov. 15 before Chief U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in June overturned his 2013 conviction for conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine. The three-member panel found that federal prosecutors had not proven Loveland, a former building contractor whose Idaho license lapsed in 2013, conspired with any of his 12 co-defendants in the case.

The appeals court said the government “had a good case” against Loveland for felony possession of meth with the intent to distribute.

“The evidence was persuasive that he committed that crime. His apparent guilt was conceded for purposes of discussion at oral argument,” Judge Andrew Kleinfeld wrote in the 16-page decision. “The barrier to convicting him of that felony was that he was not charged with it.”

Loveland and the others were accused of distributing 11 pounds of meth in Canyon, Payette and Washington counties between November 2011 and May 2012.

At trial, three co-defendants testified they repeatedly sold Loveland two ounces of meth a week, for $2,400. Each time, Loveland paid for the drugs with cash. Testimony indicated the amounts were too much for a person to consume himself without getting sicks, “so the jury could reasonably infer that Loveland bought the methamphetamine partly or entirely for resale,” Kleinfeld wrote.

Another of the men charged had an agreement with dealer Jesus Sanchez to resell the drugs. And another defendant was given meth and paid for it after it was sold.

“For Loveland, though, it was cash on the barrelhead every time — no discounts, no credit, and no agreement about what he would do with the drugs,” Kleinfeld wrote. “The Sanchez group has to have agreed with Loveland, expressly or tacitly, that Loveland should resell the methamphetamine in order for them to have conspired together.”

A jury convicted Loveland of the conspiracy charge on Jan. 22, 2013. Winmill sentenced Loveland, who had previous felony drug convictions in Idaho in 1985 and Nevada in 1999, to life in prison.

Prosecutors worked out a plea deal with Loveland before the new possession charge was filed Aug. 24. He pleaded guilty Wednesday.

“We think it is an appropriate resolution in light of the Ninth Circuit ruling, the evidence against Mr. Loveland and current Department of Justice policy to focus our resources on the most serious offenders,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Aaron Lucoff said.

John Sowell: 208-377-6423, @IDS_Sowell