A Utah man was sentenced July 15 to eight years of community corrections after he reached a plea agreement with the 14th Judicial District Attorney’s Office.
According to court records, Fernando Rojas was arrested Aug. 15, 2009, while driving through Maybell. Stopped by two Moffat County Sheriff’s Office deputies, he was found in possession of 99 grams of methamphetamine, according to records.
Rojas was originally charged in Moffat County District Court with distribution of a Schedule 2 controlled substance and possession with intent to distribute a Schedule 2 controlled substance, both Class 3 felonies, and possession of a Schedule 2 controlled substance, a Class 4 felony.
He pleaded not guilty to the charges Jan. 26, and a trial was set for May 11, but later vacated.
After reaching a plea agreement, Rojas pleaded guilty April 26 in district court to possession with intent distribute. The distribution charge had been dismissed earlier in the case, and the possession charge was dismissed as part of the plea agreement.
John Pfeifer, a Moffat County deputy district attorney, recommended to the court that Rojas be sentenced to eight years in prison. However, judge Michael O’Hara sentenced Rojas to eight years at Correctional Alternative Placement Services in Craig.
Garrett Wiggins, commander of the All Crimes Enforcement Team, said the sheriff’s office worked with ACET to arrest Rojas.
“We knew it was coming in and they basically helped us out in our investigation,” he said of the sheriff’s office.
Wiggins said deputies stopped Rojas in Maybell on probable cause.
“We had already organized the delivery of the meth, and they stopped them before they got into the city of Craig,” Wiggins said. “It is just one of the ways that we conduct some of our investigations to maintain confidentiality on some of the people that are working with us so that we can continue our investigations without causing some of the drug dealers that are higher up to get too nervous.”
Wiggins said it was a “big case” for ACET.
“It was a lot of time (and) a lot of effort that went into this case, a lot of money went into it,” he said.
Wiggins called Rojas’ sentencing “disappointing,” considering the “destructive” nature of methamphetamine.
“Some of these people go to a CAPS facility and they hang out with people that are in there for similar reasons,” he said. “You know they can’t get away from that element, and when they finish up with their CAPS, it seems like they fall right back into the rut that got them there to begin with.”
Sheriff Tim Jantz said Rojas earned his way into the inmate trustee program since being booked into jail, which allows inmates to work off sentence time.
Jantz said Rojas works primarily around the Moffat County Public Safety Center performing janitorial tasks and also helps with Wellness Wednesdays at American Legion Post 62.
Rojas is a model inmate, Jantz said.
“He is one of those that kind of earned some decent status with his performance around the safety center to go ahead and be reliable enough to be sent over to assist with the seniors,” he said.
Jantz said Rojas is pleasant to safety center staff and understands conduct rules when outside of the jail.
“A lot of times, for some law enforcement, they don’t like the inmates being on cleaning,” Jantz said. “But, he seems to have at least made those other law enforcement entities comfortable when he is cleaning.”
Jantz said Rojas’ participation in the inmate trustee program may have had a factor in Rojas’s sentencing.
“That may have well been a strong factor for the judge to say, ‘OK, I see that you are attempting to do the right things and you have earned that inmate worker status,’” he said. “That is why they work so hard to get that and try to be a model inmate, because they know that affects how judges or probation officers or other entities may look at them.”
Wiggins agreed that Rojas’ work as a trustee at the jail may have had a “positive influence” on the judge’s decision. Still, the ACET commander doesn’t agree with the judge.
“It’s not that I don’t believe in giving people second chances because I do,” Wiggins said. “But, I just believe that people should be held accountable for the crimes they have committed.”