Court records: Former MSU football player was leader of drug ring

Updated: May 23, 2007, 11:30 PM ET
Associated Press

HELENA, Mont. -- A former Montana State University football player was the leader of a cocaine ring that brought pounds of the drug to Bozeman, according to an affidavit supporting drug trafficking charges against former Bobcat wide receiver Rick Gatewood and his brother.

The affidavit, which identifies the former player only by street names, also mentions last summer's shooting death of cocaine dealer Jason Wright.

And documents filed in Justice Court in Bozeman last week tie Randy Gatewood to a June 17, 2006, bar fight that involved two former MSU athletes who are charged with kidnapping and killing Wright six days later.

"I look at it, and I'm just heartbroken," MSU President Geoff Gamble said Wednesday. "We're a very good university and we have very good athletic programs, and to have so much negatively painted across both the athletic program and the university is just heartbreaking."

The arrests of former basketball player Branden Miller and former redshirt football player John Lebrum in Wright's slaying prompted MSU officials to seek an NCAA review of its recruiting practices.

The February report -- written by officials from the NCAA, the Southeastern Conference and the Big Sky Conference -- suggested several improvements, particularly in recruiting, academic and social mentoring programs, and in the graduation rate of MSU football players. It said the football program should limit its reliance on transfers.

But by then, informants were talking with investigators, former assistant head football coach Joe O'Brien was finishing a four-year federal prison sentence on methamphetamine charges, and the curtain was coming down on Mike Kramer's coaching career at MSU.

The Gatewoods were arrested in Missoula last week and face federal charges of conspiracy to distribute cocaine and distribution of cocaine. Prosecutors estimate they distributed 11 pounds of the drug between June 2005 and May 2007. The brothers remain jailed in Missoula pending a detention hearing.

Rick Gatewood's arrest was the fifth involving former MSU football players in less than a year, and that, along with academic issues that have cost the school football scholarships in past years, led school officials to fire Kramer last Friday.

"I think (athletics director) Peter Fields and I just reached a point where enough was enough," Gamble said.

The affidavit filed in the Gatewood case, signed by FBI Special Agent Gregory Rice, uses information gathered from two Bozeman informants and pegs the leader of the drug ring as a former MSU football player who used the street names "D," or "DW or "Demetrius." "D" had six drug runners working for him, including the Gatewood brothers and two informants, court records said.

"D" is listed as an unindicted co-conspirator and is not named in court records. Investigators would not say if he has been arrested.

"I don't think we know the end point," Gamble said. "It's my understanding there's still ongoing investigation. We're waiting, like everyone else, to see where the end of this will be."

During the summer of 2006, "not long after the murder of Jason Wright (a known local cocaine dealer in Bozeman)," the affidavit said, "DW" told an informant that "there was a lot of 'heat' going on right now in Bozeman."

In late 2006, "DW" said he was going to California and that Rick Gatewood was taking over the cocaine ring, court records said.

On May 11, investigators said Rick Gatewood told them he had been involved in the cocaine ring since the summer of 2005, and that he gave "DW" some of his athletic scholarship money from MSU so he could buy cocaine from a supplier in Fairfield, Calif.

Two days after the Gatewoods' arrest, information was filed in Justice Court in Gallatin County supporting two felony counts of assault with a weapon by accountability, two counts of assault and one count of filing a serial number off a gun in connection with a fight outside a Bozeman bar on June 17, 2006.

Court records, obtained by KBZK-TV in Bozeman, accuse Randy Gatewood of participating in a fight in which Miller was accused of pistol whipping one man and placing a gun he said was loaded against another man's stomach. Witnesses said Lebrum was also involved in the fight.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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