Judge blasts arrest based on ‘ethnicity’ in drug-dealing case
Aspen Times Staff Writer
A man caught with 28 bindles of cocaine was sentenced to probation Monday after the judge who reviewed the case said the suspect “had been set up.”
Cesar Tapia-Perez, 19, was first taken into police custody on March 16 during an investigation of a theft case at the Cooper Street Pier.
A woman who called police to report missing jewelry pointed to Tapia-Perez as he walked past police officers and out of the bar that night, claiming that he was the man who stole from her. Two officers handcuffed Tapia-Perez, and during a routine pat-down for weapons, the officers allegedly found the bindles, seven “eight-balls” of cocaine and a small baggie of marijuana.
Field tests confirmed the identity of the substances. Tapia-Perez was arrested for possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute, a Class III felony. And though he admitted that he intended to sell the drugs, police did not find the missing jewelry.
The strange circumstances of the arrest – apprehended for charges that had nothing to do with the investigation at hand – caused concern for District Court Judge J.E. DeVilbiss during the defendant’s court appearances.
“It’s hard to escape the impression that this defendant, though he is a street-level drug dealer, was arrested because of his ethnicity,” DeVilbiss said Monday during Tapia-Perez’s sentencing hearing. “Mr. Tapia-Perez, you got set up.”
During Tapia-Perez’s first court appearance on March 18, DeVilbiss said he saw probable cause to detain the suspect but was not happy with the fact that he was taken into custody without a warrant. The judge said a motion to suppress could be used to help Tapia-Perez avoid prosecution, considering the circumstances of his arrest.
Instead, prosecutors offered a plea bargain that allowed Tapia-Perez to confess to a much lesser charge: attempted possession of a controlled substance, a Class V felony. Tapia-Perez pleaded guilty to the charge on May 20, and he remained in the Pitkin County Jail until Monday’s sentencing hearing.
Though DeVilbiss cracked jokes about what he called a “Monty Python”-like arrest, the judge still chastised the defendant for not only selling drugs, but spending his free time in a bar.
“Underage in a bar – you’re a kid hanging out in bars and dealing drugs,” DeVilbiss said, shaking his head.
He sentenced Tapia-Perez to three years of supervised probation, though the defendant – a native of Mexico living in the country illegally – must contact the Immigration and Naturalization Service as a condition of his sentence.
[Jennifer Davoren’s e-mail address is email@example.com.]
Support Local Journalism
Support Local Journalism
Readers around Aspen and Snowmass Village make the Aspen Times’ work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.
Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.
Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.
Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.
User Legend: Moderator Trusted User
The city of Aspen’s Next Generation Advisory Board is all but defunct due to a lack of interest and participation.