A Bowling Green man who pleaded guilty to federal drug trafficking and weapons offenses could spend 20 years in prison if a prosecutor’s request is granted.

Billy Ray Mitchell, 38, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to two counts of possession of cocaine with the intent to distribute, two counts of possession of methamphetamine with the intent to distribute and one count each of possession of marijuana with the intent to distribute, carrying a firearm in relation to a drug trafficking crime, possession of unregistered firearms and felon possessing firearms.

Mitchell is set to be sentenced Tuesday by U.S. District Judge Greg Stivers.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jo Lawless, in a sentencing memorandum filed last week, requested a 20-year prison term, citing Mitchell’s prior criminal history, which includes a 2008 cocaine trafficking conviction in Tennessee that netted him a six-year sentence.

Because of the prior drug conviction, Lawless argues that Mitchell is subject to a mandatory minimum of at least 15 years’ imprisonment in the current case.

“He has a criminal history that dates back nearly 14 years,” Lawless said in the filing. “It starts with drug possession and progresses to trafficking.”

Mitchell was arrested March 1, 2017, after law enforcement gathered information that he was involved in drug trafficking locally.

Officers executed a search warrant on Mitchell’s Audley Avenue residence on that date and found a loaded handgun on a dresser.

According to court records, Mitchell was not home at the time, but a neighbor pointed out his vehicle to police as it drove past his house.

Police followed the vehicle to a Walmart, where Mitchell was arrested.

While searching Mitchell’s car, police found about 19.7 grams of crystal meth, 2.6 grams of cocaine, marijuana and a second loaded handgun.

Mitchell was brought back to his residence, where law enforcement found three shotguns, two of which were sawed-off, in a drawstring backpack in a hallway closet where a safe was also discovered.

“Mitchell told one of the officers that once (law enforcement) opened the safe, he’s done,” Lawless said in the sentencing memorandum.

When officers opened the safe, they found about 142.6 grams of crystal meth and 135 grams of cocaine, federal court records show.

Mitchell’s attorney, Ralph Beck, argued in an objection filed last week that the prior drug conviction in Tennessee should not be used to enhance Mitchell’s punishment in this case because Mitchell was sentenced to less than 10 years for the crimes in Tennessee, so it does not qualify under federal guidelines as a serious drug offense.

– Follow courts reporter Justin Story on Twitter @jstorydailynews or visit bgdailynews.com.


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