Two years for two-time dealer |

Two years for two-time dealer

John Colson

Jesus Gabriel Soto Sandoval, who has been convicted twice on drug charges in the past year, was sentenced Monday to two years in the Colorado prison system, and may be tried later on federal immigration charges.Soto Sandoval was first arrested in the December, 2005, drug sting that netted nearly two dozen people accused of dealing drugs out from the kitchens in two Aspen restaurants.After pleading guilty to possession of less than one gram of cocaine on Jan. 27, 2006, Soto Sandoval was placed on probation and deported to Mexico, his home country.In early August he was arrested again, this time while working at the Campo de Fiori restaurant, on charges of possession of cocaine with the intent to distribute.According to Assistant District Attorney Gail Nichols, Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency officers and the Aspen Police Department saw Soto Sandoval toss a bag of suspected cocaine into a fire at the restaurant, and caught him reaching for another bag filled with cocaine.He pleaded guilty to possession of more than a gram of cocaine in the latest proceedings. Nichols dropped a charge of possession with intent to distribute as part of the plea bargain, but told Judge James Boyd that “he should get punished severely,” because he not only crossed into the United States in violation of his probation, but began dealing drugs again.Public Defender Garth McCarty, however, asked the judge to sentence Soto Sandoval to “the minimum” so that he could more quickly return to Mexico, where his wife and three children now live. McCarty said Soto Sandoval is “very thoughtful, intelligent, stable [and] very committed to his family,” and has picked up considerable culinary skills while working in Aspen kitchens.But the judge noted that despite Soto Sandoval’s “respectful” demeanor in court, he failed to respect the court’s orders when he returned to the U.S. and started dealing drugs again.Boyd sentenced Soto Sandoval to two years in prison, with 89 days of credit for time already served, then wished him luck in leading a productive life once he finishes his term.In other court action, Boyd sentenced local woodworker Mark Strauss to 90 days in jail and five years of probation on drug charges.Strauss was arrested in October, 2005, after an informant’s tip led to a raid. Police found a bag of nearly 25 grams of cocaine, an unknown amount of “cut” for diluting the cocaine and a collection of paper “bindles” ready to be used for packaging, according to Nichols.Strauss pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute, and was to receive a sentence of two years of work-release detention in the Pitkin County Jail, but Nichols and the defense attorney, celebrated drug lawyer Joseph St. Veltri of Denver, learned today that the jail would not accept that long of a work-release sentence.The judge agreed to the modified plea deal as a compromise, and agreed to postpone the sentence for 30 days to give Strauss time to put his personal and business affairs in order.John Colson’s e-mail address is

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