Leader of large meth ring wants to withdraw guilty plea

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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – The 48-year-old leader of what federal prosecutors say was one of the largest methamphetamine rings in southwest Missouri has withdrawn a guilty plea.

Kenneth Friend was the last of 29 defendants in the case. He was expected to be sentenced to 30 years in prison but withdrew his plea on Wednesday.

The Springfield News-Leader reports the withdrawal is related to federal legislation passed by Congress in December that changes how previous drug convictions affect sentences.

For Friend, the law would reduce his possible mandatory minimum sentence from life in prison to 10 years.

The case might now be headed for trial. Assistant U.S. Attorney Randy Eggert told the judge plea negotiations have stalled.

Federal prosecutors say the defendants brought hundreds of pounds of meth to the Ozarks in 2013 and 2014.

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