Sentencing sends message to dealers

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Judge Mary Lynne James imposed a harsher sentence than what the 14th Judicial District Probation Department recommended when she sentenced a defendant on drug charges Tuesday.

James sentenced Ignacio Rodriguez, 57, to two years in prison despite a pre-sentencing investigation report that recommended a sentence of eight years probation and no prison time.

Rodriguez pleaded guilty in November to possession and distribution of methamphetamine. The plea agreement guaranteed he would not receive a prison sentence longer than four years.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Dave Waite sees the sentence as a "message" to those in the methamphetamine trade.

"(James) wants to send a message that if you sell methamphetamine, you're going to go away," Waite said. "I think that's a very good message to send."

Waite said he didn't think the judge "bought" the story that Rodriguez was "accidentally caught up in this whole thing."

Rodriguez' attorney, Kristopher Hammond, said the Probation Department's lenient recommendation recognized that Rodriguez was not involved in the drug trade but pleaded guilty because he had no choice.

Hammond said his client had been a victim of entrapment.

Rodriguez did not take the case to trial, although he was convinced that undercover drug agents created a crime that otherwise would not have occurred, Hammond said.

The defense attorney said he explained to his client that courts are not receptive to the "entrapment" defense, and that a trial would be fruitless.

Hammond said the stigma of being a convicted felon was punishment enough.

Waite argued that Rodriguez was "a drug dealer, plain and simple."

"I hope the message goes out that meth is, as the judge (James) put it, a real 'cancer' in this community and we're not going to put up with it," Waite said.

Rodriguez' sentencing was the last in a group of cases involving six defendants arrested in April in a drug raid that enlisted more than 40 officers from multiple agencies.

Craig Police Chief Walt Vanatta said the raid brought down a drug organization operating in Craig. The Grand Routt and Moffat Narcotics Enforcement Team spent six months investigating the suspects. The operation was named "Public Outcry" because it was initiated by input from concerned members of the community.

Waite spent nine months prosecuting the resulting cases.

"I think we got some good results," Waite said. "We convicted guys who needed to be convicted and put guys in prison who needed to be in prison."

The six cases resulted in prison sentences totaling more than 16 years, as well as thousands in fines and restitution.

Jeremy Browning can be reached at 824-7031 or jbrowning@craigdailypress.com

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