BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – A federal judge today sentenced a Blount County man on gun and drug charges, announced U.S. Attorney Prim F. Escalona and Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent in Charge Brad L. Byerley.
U.S. District Court Judge Karon O. Bowdre sentenced Stephen Matthew Laughlin aka “Country”, 38, to 286 months in prison followed by five years of supervised release for possession with the intent to distribute methamphetamine and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime. Laughlin pleaded guilty in December 2021.
According to the plea agreement and evidence at sentencing, on September 29, 2021, law enforcement conducted a joint operation of a safety and driver license inspection checkpoint in Blount County. An officer approached Laughlin’s vehicle when it stopped at the checkpoint and asked Laughlin to produce his driver’s license, registration, and proof of insurance. The officer walked to the rear of the vehicle to check the status of the tag and noticed a large metal piece sticking up off the trailer hitch. The metal piece obstructed the view of the vehicle tag and was in violation of Alabama state law. The officer returned to the driver’s window and asked Laughlin to pull to the side of the road and wait for the officer to issue a warning citation for the violation. As the officer walked to his patrol unit, he asked a K-9 deputy to use his narcotics detection K-9 to conduct a free air sniff of the truck. The K-9 positively alerted for the presence of the odor of drugs coming from the truck. The officer asked Laughlin to exit the vehicle so officers could conduct a probable cause search of the vehicle based on the positive K-9 alert. Laughlin then became argumentative with the officers, put his truck in drive and fled the scene. A Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Task Force Officer (TFO), who was at the checkpoint, began to pursue Laughlin. Laughlin accelerated to speeds exceeding eighty miles per hour and threw a red bag out of the driver’s side window. Another officer stopped and retrieved the bag, which was found to contain methamphetamine. Spike strips were deployed by officers. Laughlin ran over the spike strips and eventually stopped, surrendering to law enforcement officers. During the search of Laughlin’s vehicle, officers found a PPS43C Pioneer Arms Corp 9mm semi-automatic pistol and an Anderson Manufacturing AM-15 .223 caliber rifle in a soft rifle case located behind the driver’s seat on the bench seat. The drugs seized from Laughlin totaled 997.1 grams of 94% pure methamphetamine.
The DEA investigated the case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Allison Garnett prosecuted the case.