Arizona baseball player gets 14 years in prison for Eagle County drug trafficking charges
Jesus Camargo-Corrales to serve over a decade in Department of Corrections for trafficking meth, fentanyl
A former minor league baseball player from Arizona was sentenced Wednesday to 14 years in the Colorado Department of Corrections for trafficking drugs through Eagle County.
Jesus Camargo-Corrales, 25, originally pleaded not guilty to the six drug felonies and two “special offender” sentence enhancers filed against him by the 5th Judicial District Attorney’s Office.
The charges stem from Camargo-Corrales’s March 17 arrest, when police searched his vehicle and found 21 pounds of methamphetamine and 1.2 pounds of fentanyl pills.
Camargo-Corrales reversed his plea at an October hearing to accept an offer from the District Attorney’s Office to plead guilty to a single count of the highest classification of drug felonies for possessing more than 112 grams of methamphetamine with the intent to distribute it.
The Arizona resident was a pitcher for a few minor league baseball teams, most recently playing for the South Bend Cubs, an affiliate of the Chicago Cubs, according to his profile on the official website of Minor League Baseball.
On March 22, five days after his arrest, the South Bend Cubs placed Camargo-Corrales on the league’s “restricted list,” according to the profile.
Camargo-Corrales is originally from Sinaloa, Mexico, but was living in Tempe, Arizona, when he was arrested in Eagle back in March. He has remained in custody at the Eagle County jail ever since.
The class 1 drug felony carries a sentence of 8 to 32 years in the Department of Corrections, but the plea agreement brought that down to a recommended sentencing range of 10 to 15 years. Ultimately, the decision as to what penalty Camargo-Corrales would face lay in the hands of Chief Judge Paul R. Dunkelman of the 5th Judicial District.
Deputy District Attorney Johnny Lombardi and Camargo-Corrales’s defense attorney were both given time to make final statements before Chief Judge Dunkelman handed down the sentence.
Lombardi’s arguments contained no shortage of baseball puns as he told “the story of the downfall of what could have been a professional baseball player.”
Camargo-Corrales was “living the dream,” with a minor league career that had him in a pipeline to play with the Chicago Cubs one day, Lombardi said.
The man has no criminal history and was not found to be affiliated with “any known gang” during a pre-sentence investigation, but Lombardi said “the drugs came from an area where there are known cartel gang members.”
“If these drugs made their way onto the streets of Denver and Aurora, they could have killed people,” Lombardi said, alluding to where Camargo-Corrales was heading when he was stopped by local law enforcement.
With that, Lombardi asked Dunkelman to sentence Camargo-Corrales at the top of the recommended range — 15 years behind bars — despite having scored in the lowest range of a risk assessment performed by the probation department.
Camargo-Corrales’s defense attorney leaned into Lombardi’s argument, saying that his client was living the dream, “the American dream,” until the pandemic shut down the stadium.
The games stopped and then the paychecks stopped. Camargo-Corrales, who came over from Mexico on a specific kind of work visa that did not allow him to gain other employment, was left without a way to provide for his family, the attorney said.
“I think that led to outright desperation and poor decision-making,” the defense lawyer said. “He got paid such a nominal amount for such a large amount of drugs.”
Camargo-Corrales will already face severe immigration consequences for what he has done and his “promising, promising career is down the toilet,” the attorney said. He would surely spend time in the Department of Corrections for his actions, but the lawyer asked that it be limited to a decade of the young man’s life.
In a short statement offered by Camargo-Corrales with the help of the court’s interpreter, he apologized for what he did.
He said he had never been involved with drugs before, so he did not know the danger they could have caused. He was just looking for a way to stay with his kids and provide for them, his wife and his mother who is sick, Camargo-Corrales said.
After some back and forth, Chief Judge Dunkelman sentenced Camargo-Corrales near the top of the recommended range — 14 years in the Colorado Department of Corrections with three years of mandatory parole.
“When any judge sentences anybody to the Department of Corrections, it’s a tragedy,” Dunkelman said to the man standing before him. “In some cases, it may be more tragic than others.”
Dunkelman acknowledged that there was a lot left unknown about what Camargo-Corrales’ role in trafficking these drugs was, adding that “on paper, it looks like it was probably a limited role.”
Still, Dunkelman pointed out that 21 pounds of methamphetamine is well above the 112-gram threshold needed to designate the offense as a class 1 drug felony — about 9,413 grams above, to be exact.
Camargo-Corrales was ordered to pay a $4,500 “drug offender surcharge” but was not ordered to pay any additional fines, which could have amounted to upwards of $1 million, according to sentencing guidelines for class 1 drug felonies.
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