Jury finds South America native guilty of cocaine possession
July 31, 2014
A Pitkin County jury on Tuesday took about two hours to find a Carbondale resident guilty of felony drug possession, nearly two years after he was first arrested for the crime.
Fernando A. Fuentes-Silva, 30, a native of South America, was convicted in District Court of holding more than 4 grams of cocaine. He was arrested early the morning of Sept. 6, 2012, when Aspen police stopped him as he was walking along a bike path parallel to Highway 82 near the Truscott Place apartments. He had been arguing with an ex-girlfriend just minutes before, and she phoned 911 to alert authorities, police said.
According to testimony from Officer Jeff Fain and other Aspen policemen involved in the case, Fuentes-Silva admitted to using cocaine but declined to be searched when they contacted him after he left the woman's apartment. However, he produced a small bag of cocaine in front of the officers despite the fact that they had not asked him to, police said.
Following jury selection on Monday, Aspen prosecutor Blake Feamster called witnesses late Monday afternoon and Tuesday morning. A Colorado Bureau of Investigation expert testified that the white, powdery substance contained inside the four small bags that police seized in the arrest tested positive for cocaine.
Feamster also played and entered as evidence an audio recording of what police say was a conversation between Fain and the defendant in which Fuentes-Silva — as he is being taken to jail — says he purchased $200 worth of cocaine in a bathroom of a South Galena Street bar.
Aspen defense attorney Beth Krulewitch did not call witnesses Tuesday. She had argued on Monday that police had no reason to believe any crime had been committed when they stopped Fuentes-Silva on the bike path. However, in March, her motion to suppress evidence and statements in the case was denied by the court.
The 12-person jury deliberated from about 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. before returning the guilty verdict.
Feamster joined the 9th Judicial District Attorney's Office in April 2013. The Fuentes-Silva case marked the first time she has served as lead prosecutor in a felony trial. She was assisted by Assistant District Attorney Scott Turner.
"You honestly never know how it's going to go with a jury, and that's kind of the nice gamble of it," Feamster said. "We definitely had strong facts, and I'm certain that's why we prevailed."
According to court documents, Fuentes-Silva was prepared to plead guilty and receive a disposition in late 2012, but he later switched attorneys and changed his plea to not guilty when he learned that a conviction could result in deportation.
Following the verdict Tuesday, District Judge Gail Nichols scheduled Fuentes-Silva's sentencing date for Sept. 15.