Judge cuts suspected drug kingpin’s bail | AspenTimes.com

Judge cuts suspected drug kingpin’s bail

Joel Stonington

Pitkin County District Court Judge James Boyd slashed the bail Monday for alleged drug ring leader Jose Jesus “Chuy” Sanchez-Ceja.Sanchez-Ceja was arrested in late September following a 10-month undercover operation. His bail originally was set at $750,000; it was lowered to $100,000. Boyd evidently agreed with Sanchez-Ceja’s lawyer, Mark Rubinstein, that there was a much lower flight risk than was originally perceived. Sanchez-Ceja was apprehended after DEA agents, listening through a wiretap on Sanchez-Ceja’s phone, believed he intended to flee. Assistant District Attorney Gail Nichols restated Monday that Sanchez-Ceja faces seven felony drug charges, including “being the supervisor of the conspiracy.” He faces an eight-year minimum sentence if convicted. Nichols also said Sanchez-Ceja went to Puerto Vallarta during the same month he was arrested, and wiretap evidence shows he was trying to flee the country. “The evidence is so overwhelming and the penalties are so severe as to keep the bail high,” argued Nichols. Nichols also mentioned that she was not sure Sanchez-Ceja’s papers showing he is a legal alien are legitimate. If he was in the country illegally, bail would be a non-issue because Immigrations and Customs Enforcement would have held him on those charges. “The judge exercised his discretion and [$100,000 was] what he felt was appropriate,” Nichols later said. “Time will tell.”Sanchez-Ceja was arrested in a series of valleywide drug raids, which led to the arrest of six suspected cocaine dealers and the seizure of $14,000 worth of cocaine and $64,000 cash. The DEA and the Two Rivers Drug Enforcement Team conducted the raids, which also resulted in the arrests of 36 suspected illegal aliens by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. DEA agents involved in the sting said they would have made additional arrests had there been time for more planning. However, with what agents believed was a significant flight risk in Sanchez-Ceja, they moved ahead. “We are extremely fortunate we got [Sanchez-Ceja] when we did,” DEA agent Tom Gorman said soon after the arrest. “Had our team gotten there five minutes later, it’s unlikely we would have arrested him.”Rubinstein argued bail should be reduced because Sanchez-Ceja has lived in the U.S. since 1972, in the valley since 1989 and in the same home since 1992. Further, Rubinstein stated Sanchez-Ceja has children in Denver and California, brothers in New Castle and El Jebel, a sister in Basalt, and plainly asserts he has no ties to Mexico. Rubinstein also mentioned Sanchez-Ceja has been working at the same car wash for 14 years. The car wash is listed in court documents as the focal point of the drug ring allegedly led by Sanchez-Ceja. A $100,000 bond requires $15,000 down in cash and collateral equal to $85,000. Arraignment is set for Dec. 18 at 10:30 a.m. Joel Stonington’s e-mail address is jstonington@aspentimes.com

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