LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- John Robert "Johnny" Boone, a central figure in the prolific Kentucky-based "Cornbread Mafia" marijuana ring, was sentenced to nearly five years in federal prison Thursday. 

Boone, 74, pleaded guilty last year to a single count of conspiring to grow and distribute more than 1,000 marijuana plants in Washington County, Kentucky. He fled the U.S. on drug charges in 2008 and was captured in Canada in 2016.

Wearing a black-and-white jumpsuit and shackled at the ankles, Boone said little during a hearing in front of U.S. District Judge Charles R. Simpson III and declined to make a statement in court. He rocked in his chair as Simpson sentenced him to 57 months in prison, three years of supervised release and a $100 fine.

Prosecutors had sought a sentence of 60 months, or five years, but they declined to seek a fine that under a plea agreement could have been as much as $250,000.

His attorneys argued for a lighter prison term — 47 months — in part because of uneven prosecution for marijuana in the U.S., such as the dearth of enforcement efforts in states with recreational cannabis industries sanctioned under local laws.

Simpson conceded that Boone had been a "frequent customer in the justice system over the years" and noted that he was nearly 75 but said that Boone's age is not reason alone to depart from sentencing guidelines. 

The judge told Boone that while no one knows how his story will end, “I would hope that you make this the last chapter.”

Boone hugged his lawyers after the sentencing, waved twice to supporters in the courtroom and was led away. Simpson said he would abide by Boone's wishes and recommend that he serve his federal prison time in Lexington.

Outside the Gene Snyder U.S. Courthouse and Custom House, Boone's friend Charlie Bickett said the sentence was in line with the plea agreement. 

"I'm proud of him," Bickett said. "We love him, and we'll stick with him in our prayers."

Boone ran what prosecutors called the "largest domestic marijuana syndicate in American history." They said he had 29 farms in nine states, including Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Nebraska, Missouri, Kansas and Wisconsin.

He spent eight years in prison after being arrested in the 1980s. After his capture in Canada in 2016, he was deported from Montreal last spring.

Related Stories:

Copyright 2018 WDRB News. All Rights Reserved.