Two more pleas offered and one sentenced to two-years probation
by Eric Mullens
WALSENBURG — Two of the defendants bound over from a November 27 preliminary hearing concerning the large illegal marijuana cultivation operation discovered on Huerfano County Road 510 in October, appeared in court with their lawyers Monday, Dec. 11.
Amber and Mayra Gallegos, represented by their attorneys, Garrett Sheldon and David Roth were scheduled to be formally arraigned on marijuana charges by Third District Court Judge Claude Appel at 11 am. However it was announced to the court that both defendants were considering a plea offered from the district attorney’s office.
Both women are free on reduced bond, but currently face DF1 (drug felony one) charges as a result of their arrest at one of the five sites subject to search warrants from the sheriff’s office in October.
Prosecutor Steve Sullivan would not comment on the possible plea offer, however on December 1, the DA’s office offered plea agreements to five other defendants in the case, reducing the DF1 charges to DF4.
Plea hearings for both defendants were scheduled at the brief hearing Dec. 11. Mayra Gallegos will return to court at 11:30 am Jan. 11, 2018, and Amber Gallegos will return to court on Jan. 22, 2018 for her plea hearing at 2:30 pm.
Also on Monday, Dec. 11, one of the defendants who was scheduled for a preliminary hearing on Dec. 1, was sentenced during the afternoon session.
Israel Jimenez asked for an immediate plea hearing through his attorney Michael Emmons during the previous session. That hearing was held on Monday, December 4 in district court in Walsenburg and the defendant entered a plea of guilty to the lesser included DF4 offense of possession of 12 ounces or more of marijuana.
On Monday, Dec. 11, Jimenez was sentenced to two years probation. His supervised probation will be handled in California. The just-turned 20-year old defendant appeared in court in custody, but was released after the hearing when he was scheduled to meet with local probation department officials. If Jimenez stays out of trouble, his felony conviction will be reduced to a misdemeanor at the end of his probation term. It was pointed out the defendant did not have a criminal past. Judge Appel questioned Jimenez on how he became involved in the marijuana operation on CR 510. Jimenez said he heard about an opportunity to make good money working on a marijuana farm in Colorado after a soccer game he was at in Bakersfield, CA. The judge said the young man could “chalk this up to a very bad decision” on his part.
Friday, December 1
Appearing in court with their attorneys Friday morning, Dec. 1 were; Celedonio Abarca (Jon Neil Barclay); Araesley Amaro (Arron Gaddis); Leon Fernandez (Adam Shultz); Israel Jimenez (Michael Emmons), and Jose Jimenez (Diana Bull). The people were represented by 3rd Judicial District Deputy District Attorney Steve Sullivan. The defendant’s attorney’s names appear in parenthesis in the above paragraph related to Dec. 1 hearings.
The proposed plea agreement would see each of the five defendants plea to a DF4 (Drug Felony) charge. Each defendant had been originally charged with DF-1 violations. District Judge Claude Appel removed the preliminary hearings from the docket and set dates for the defendants to accept the plea offer. In light of the plea offers, Judge Appel also lowered the bond for the defendants, who had been held under the DF1 changes on $50,000 cash only bonds. Amaro’s bond was reduced to $10,000 c/s (cash or surety) and next court appearance set for 10 am January 11, 2018; Abarca’s bond was reduced to $20,000 c/s and next court appearance set for January 22; Leon Fernandez’ bond was reducted to $20,000 c/s with his next court appearance set for 2:30 pm Jan. 22; Jose Jimenez also received a reducted bond of $20,000 c/s and will also appear in court at 2:30 pm Jan. 22.
The Colorado Criminal Code began using the DF (drug felony) penality schedule for crimes committed on or after October 1, 2013.
The minimum sentence for conviction of a DF1 is eight years in the department of corrections with a maximum 32 year sentence possible. Mandatory parole for conviction of a DF1 charge three years with fines ranging from $5,000 to $1 million. Conviction of a DF4 offense in the presumptive minimum range is six months to one year, with maximum penalties of one to two years in prison with one year probation and fines from $1,000 to $100,000.