Judge sentences final defendant from local cocaine busts

Charles Agar

District Court Judge James Boyd on Thursday sentenced Jose de Jesus Velasco-Estrada to one year in jail for cocaine possession.Velasco-Estrada is the last of nine defendants of who faced charges in investigations stemming from the December drug raid at Cooper Street Pier and Little Annie’s Eating House in Aspen. Velasco-Estrada received what district attorney Gail Nichols called the “minimum sentence within the standard range.”Attorney Lauren Maytin asked for immediate deportation and probation for Velasco-Estrada, who has served 294 days in county jail.”Probation,” Maytin said, “means deportation,” and no costly stay in jail, which Maytin called “a waste of taxpayers’ money.” Regardless of sentencing, Velasco-Estrada will be deported to his native Mexico.Velasco-Estrada faced felony cocaine-possession charges. He was found in possession of cocaine during the raid.Maytin asked for the lesser sentence based on the fact that it was his first conviction and Velasco-Estrada never possessed or sold large quantities of drugs. Velasco-Estrada, she said, was “less culpable” than many of the seven defendants who pleaded guilty to charges from the sting. (Along with the seven plea deals, there was one acquittal, and another had charges dropped.)Maytin said Velasco-Estrada’s nearly 10 months in county jail were well-spent and “probably saved his life.” He kicked his cocaine habit, she said, and had reflected on his actions.”This is not an egregious case,” Maytin said.Boyd sentenced Velasco-Estrada to one year in jail for possession and dismissed charges of selling cocaine. The 294 days Velasco-Estrada served will count toward the one-year sentence.Maytin was disappointed with the ruling. She said Velasco-Estrada would likely be sent to a diagnostic center, followed by placement in the state corrections system for the remainder of his sentence. Maytin called it a waste of money.In a separate but related case, Jesus Gabriel Soto Sandoval pleaded guilty to possession of a Schedule II controlled substance.In February, Soto Sandoval, who worked at Little Annie’s, pleaded guilty to drug possession charges stemming from the same December raid that netted Velasco-Estrada. He was sentenced to probation and deported to Mexico but wound up back in Pitkin County by summer and again faces charges of possession of cocaine.On Aug. 10, two agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and an Aspen police officer arrested Soto Sandoval at Campo de Fiori, an Italian restaurant in Aspen. Officers said he seemed to recognize police and ICE officials from the December raid. And when police entered, officers allege, Soto Sandoval threw something in the fire. He then reached for a drawer, which officers later found to hold packets of cocaine.He plead guilty to a felony charge of possession with no intent to sell. His guilty plea might buy him a pass on his probation violation. He faces sentencing in October.Charles Agar’s e-mail address is