by Eric Mullens
WALSENBURG — On Friday, Dec. 1, the remaining five defendants in the October 2017 marijuana bust conducted by the sheriff’s office on CR 510 waived their preliminary hearings in light of a plea deal offered by the Third Judicial District Attorney’s Office.
Appearing in court with their attorneys Friday morning 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 and in a paragraph located further down in this article.
The proposed plea agreement would see each of the five defendants plea to a DF (Drug Felony) 4; each had been originally charged with DF-1 counts. 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.
Israel Jimenez asked for an immediate plea hearing through his attorney Emmons. 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. His sentencing date was set for 1:30 pm Monday, December 11, 2017. He will likely face a probation sentence that will allow the felony charge to be reduced to a misdemeanor if he meets all of the conditions of probation.
On Monday Emmons presented the court with a number of documents offered to show his client was a ‘good kid’ who had made a bad decision to come to Colorado from California this past summer to work in cultivation at a marijuana farm for $200 cash per day. Included in those documents were a copy of his high school diploma, college transcripts ,and letters, including one from his mother and records showing the defendant had no criminal history prior to this incident.
Emmons told the World Journal his client never was paid for his work and only met the so-called boss of the operation one time. Emmons added his client did not know the name of the boss of the illegal grow. Monday, Nov. 27, 2017
Sullivan presented two witnesses in the day-long preliminary hearing Monday, November 27 of Amber (Garrett Sheldon) and Mayra Gallegos (David Roth), Ulises Garibay (Karl Tameler), Lazaro Garibay (Ray L. Hughes), Gaudencio Nieto (Casey Irwin), and Damian Villalba (Cobea Becker), all originally charged with drug felony one (DF1) counts; offenses relating to marijuana-marijuana concentrate as a result of their arrests on October 12, 2017 at 1545 CR 510 in Huerfano County.
Following that hearing, both Amber and Mayra Gallegos were bound over for trial, but the court found the prosecution did not provide enough evidence the other four defendants had anything to do with the operation of the various illegal marijuana grows and ordered the state charges against them dropped. The four male defendants were taken into the custody of federal Immigration- Customs Enforcement agents later in the day on November 27. Judge Appel also lowered the bond for both of the Gallegos’ from $50,000 cash to $20,000 cash or surety each during the November 27 hearing.
Amber and Mayra Gallegos will be arraigned on their charges at 11 am December 11 in district court in Walsenburg.
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 is 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.