He said he did take into consideration the fact that Pagenstecher wasn't violent, didn't have weapons, was a good student, finished a drug-abuse program and got a job at an Italian restaurant.
"You know, I think you're probably a pretty fine young person that went down a bad trail here," Lipps told Pagenstecher. "I do think there's hope for you in the future."
After the sentencing, prosecutor David Fornshell said he hopes the case sends a message to other young adults.
"I think that probably when people originally heard this story they thought this guy was a hero or a rock star," Fornshell said. "I think any juvenile who would come in here today and see somebody go through what this juvenile went through today, and the fact that (if) he doesn't cooperate in the Department of Youth Services, he's going to be in there until his 21st birthday - I hope that sends a strong message."
He said that he expects Pagenstecher to be imprisoned in a juvenile facility that will include drug rehabilitation and education, considering he was just three classes away from graduating from high school.
In addition to Pagenstecher, seven adults ages 20 to 58 were arrested in connection with the drug ring. They were accused of growing the pot under artificial lights in a furniture warehouse and two suburban homes.
Four of the adults have pleaded not guilty to charges of drug trafficking and possession, marijuana cultivation and engaging in corrupt activity. They are are set for trial in November and December.
The other four have pleaded guilty to some of the charges, with most still awaiting sentencing. One of them, 31-year-old Stacy Lampe, has been sentenced to two years in prison.
As part of its investigation of the drug ring, the Warren County Drug Task Force seized more than 600 marijuana plants with an estimated street value of $3 million, or $5,000 a pound. Investigators also found $6,000 in cash in Pagenstecher's bedroom.
Task force Cmdr. John Burke has called Pagenstecher a "little czar" in the drug ring and said most of his customers were students at Mason High and Kings High, two highly ranked public schools about 20 miles outside Cincinnati.