1 of 2 suspects of drug trafficking and chase in Big Timber plea - KTVQ.com | Q2 | Continuous News Coverage | Billings, MT

1 of 2 suspects of drug trafficking and chase in Big Timber pleads guilty, other released

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BILLINGS - One of the two men accused of trafficking drugs from California to Montana and fleeing during a traffic stop in Big Timber pleaded guilty to federal drug charges Wednesday.

Ronald Andrew Smith, 36, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Billings to one count of possession with the intent to distribute methamphetamine.

There is no plea agreement in the case.

Smith’s co-defendant, Jairo Vela-Diaz, was set to take his case to trial later this month but the charges against Vela-Diaz were dismissed Tuesday.

According to court documents, prosecutors said they could not prove the count against Vela-Diaz “beyond a reasonable doubt.” No further information about his case was released.

A Montana Highway Patrol trooper stopped the vehicle on Interstate 90 in Big Timber in February.

The trooper approached the vehicle and became suspicious that the two men in the vehicle were trafficking drugs.

The trooper told Smith and Vela-Diaz that he’d be impounding the vehicle to have it searched.

Smith then rushed back to the vehicle and fought off two troopers who tried to stop him.

The two suspects took off in the vehicle but quickly became stuck in the snow, so they fled on foot.

Officers followed the footprints in the snow and came upon two plastic-wrapped packages containing about 2 pounds of methamphetamine.

Authorities used a helicopter, search dogs and ATVs to locate the suspects in the hills.

Smith later admitted to investigators that he had driven from California to Montana to deliver meth to a person in Montana.

Smith drew the officers a map, which they used to find an additional 2.6 pounds of methamphetamine near the suspect vehicle.

Sentencing has been set for Jan. 24.

RELATED: Men arrested in Big Timber manhunt identified

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