Nine-year prison term handed in Walla Walla motel meth lab case

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WALLA WALLA - A career criminal who police say set up a large methamphetamine lab at the Walla Walla Vineyard Inn last spring was handed a nine-year prison term at his sentencing hearing Monday afternoon.

Clifford E. Chew, 57, also must serve a year on community custody, a form of probation, after his release.

The decade-long total was the longest sentence Superior Court Judge John Lohrmann could have imposed on Chew under state law. As required, Lohrmann gave him credit for the 292 days he's already served in the County Jail.

Chew faced a standard-range penalty of seven to 10 years, with the defense and prosecution in a plea agreement both recommending a low-end sentence.

But Lohrmann declined to go along with the joint recommendation for a number of reasons.

Chew pleaded guilty Feb. 27 to possessing methamphetamine with intent to manufacture the substance within 1,000 feet of a school bus route stop. He didn't admit guilt, but acknowledged the prosecution has evidence that could convict him.

Chew was arrested May 18 in a SWAT-team raid at the Vineyard Inn, 325 E. Main St. Police said they recovered many items used to manufacture meth - in addition to the finished product - when they served a search warrant in room 106 of the motel, occupied by Chew.

The lab reportedly was one of the largest ever discovered in Walla Walla County.

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