Drug raid suspects get probation
Two men arrested in the Dec. 2 drug raids in downtown Aspen pleaded guilty to possession of cocaine Thursday, agreeing to deals in which distribution and conspiracy charges were dropped.Jesus Soto-Sandoval and Julian Gonzales-Coronado each had a half-gram of cocaine when officers arrested them, Soto-Sandoval at Little Annie’s Eating House and Gonzales-Coronado at Cooper Street Pier.They were sentenced Thursday to two months of probation, community service and $750 in court costs. They originally faced cocaine distribution counts, and Gonzales-Coronado was also charged with conspiracy to distribute the drug. Neither had a criminal history.Some residents criticized police for the handling of the raids, including using 50 officers from federal, state and local jurisdictions. Police Chief Loren Ryerson apologized for not telling the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office about the raid in advance, and there was a community meeting to discuss drug enforcement in Aspen.Deputy district attorney Gail Nichols, noting that Soto-Sandoval has no criminal history, did not object to public defender Greg Greer’s request for two years of probation.”The presence of drugs does affect the community,” Judge James Boyd said.He told Gonzales-Coronado and Soto-Sandoval that if they are not deported, their probations will be supervised.Ryerson said the duty of police is to present their best possible case to the judicial system.”So I don’t invest myself in what deal or not the district attorney worked out and for whatever reason. The reasons are way too many,” he said. “I’m confident in our district attorney’s office in working out equitable deals for [the public].”Ryerson said one should not compare the time spent on a case – a six-month investigation preceded the Dec. 2 operation – to the outcomes of the case. Eight other men arrested Dec. 2 also face charges.Pitkin County Sheriff Bob Braudis said the sentences only reaffirmed his belief that the war on drugs is a disaster – “The Vietnam of the 21st century,” he said.”If we released every drug prisoner across the country, other than the violent ones, we wouldn’t need to build any more prisons for a century,” he said. “The criminal justice system is starting to support my philosophy. … I don’t care what you do to your body. As a friend, I’d say, ‘Hey, you’re killing yourself.’ But it’s your choice.”He noted that the district attorney, working with the public defender, reached a plea bargain “for straight probation” that Boyd approved.”I like that,” he said.In another case stemming from the raids, Boyd tried to again find a lawyer for Jaime Gamez-Acuna. He is accused of cocaine distribution, conspiracy to distribute cocaine and criminal solicitation.The conspiracy charge has made finding legal representation for Gamez-Acuna difficult. Several defense lawyers are representing the other suspects, so they cannot represent Gamez-Acuna because of conflicts of interest.But attorney Arnie Mordkin, whom Boyd asked to consider representing Gamez-Acuna , told the judge that prosecutors “now believe there is no conspiracy as part of the charges.”Nichols agreed, saying the “conspiracies are rather loose.” Boyd continued Gamez-Acuna’s hearing as more attempts will be made to find him a lawyer.Chad Abraham’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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Amid the pre-Thanksgiving gloom of grim pandemic news here in Aspen, across Colorado and the mountain west came a small but significant dose of hope in the unlikely form of an Aspen Music Festival and School announcement.