Charles Cotten Jr., then the manager of the Bergmann Hotel, takes the Juneau Empire on a tour of the facility on Friday, March 10, 2017. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

Charles Cotten Jr., then the manager of the Bergmann Hotel, takes the Juneau Empire on a tour of the facility on Friday, March 10, 2017. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

Cotten to plead guilty to meth distribution charges

Charles Edward Cotten Jr., originally scheduled to go to trial for drug distribution charges this week, is expected to take a plea agreement Wednesday instead.

Cotten, 52, will plead guilty to four counts of drug distribution, according to the plea agreement (embedded at the bottom of the article). The methamphetamine distributions took place May 12, June 2, June 6 and June 7 in 2017, the plea agreement alleges. According to online court documents, Cotten’s attorney Michael Moberly filed a notice to the court on March 30 that Cotten intended on changing his plea from his original not guilty plea.

The plea agreement comes about a month and a half after Cotten’s 36-year-old son Ricky Stapler Lisk pleaded guilty to one charge of meth distribution. Both men were originally supposed to go to trial in early March.

Lisk faces a possible sentence of between five and 40 years, a fine of up to $5 million and supervised release of at least four years after his release from prison. His sentencing, according to online court records, is set for 10:30 a.m. Oct. 5.

Cotten delivered a total of 112 grams of meth on those four days, according to the plea deal, and he delivered them using his 1995 black Harley-Davidson motorcycle. One of the transactions took place on Cotten’s boat, the M/V Northwind, the plea agreement states. The individuals who bought the meth from Cotten, according to the plea agreement, were participating with law enforcement and recorded audio from the four transactions.

Cotten was arrested Oct. 20, 2017, and he had a .45 caliber handgun in his vehicle and nearly 400 grams of a substance that tested positive for meth. Cotten is the former manager of the Bergmann Hotel, which was condemned by the city on March 9, 2017 for ownership not addressing fire and building code violations.

When the Bergmann was condemned, Cotten was arrested and charged with reckless or intentional violation of a lawful order of the building official, a class A misdemeanor, but charges were dropped soon afterward.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jack Schmidt said in February that he didn’t expect Cotten’s trial to take long, only estimating it at three days. Wednesday’s change of plea hearing is set for 2:30 p.m., according to online court documents, and a sentencing date will be set at that hearing.

Cotten faces the same sentencing window as Lisk for each charge, from five to 40 years and a maximum of $5 million fine. Court documents show both the prosecution and defense will recommend 10 years of imprisonment and 10 years of supervised release. As part of the agreement, Cotten will not be able to appeal his conviction or his sentence.

The sentence depends on numerous factors, including prior criminal history. The plea agreement states that Cotten was previously convicted in Missouri for manufacturing a controlled substance. Schmidt said that case was in 1999, and Cotten was sentenced to eight years in prison.

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Cottenplea (PDF)

Cottenplea (Text)

• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at 523-2271 or Follow him on Twitter at @akmccarthy.

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