Editorial: Judgment lapsed

our view

Court case, work release situation for Utah man convicted of intent to distribute meth was far too lenient, and reveals holes in the judicial and law enforcement system.

The recent court case and work release situation of Utah man Fernando Rojas caught the attention of the Editorial Board at its Monday meeting.

Two Moffat County Sheriff’s Office deputies stopped Rojas on Aug. 15, 2009, while driving through Maybell. A search of his vehicle found him in possession of 99 grams of methamphetamine, according to court records.

As part of a plea deal with the 14th Judicial District Attorney’s Office, Rojas pleaded guilty April 26 to possession with intent to distribute. He was sentenced July 15 to eight years of community corrections, most likely to be served at Correctional Alternative Placement Services in Craig.

However, it was also learned that while in custody at Moffat County Jail, Rojas had gained entry into the inmate trustee program, which allows inmates to work off time from their sentence.

Rojas worked primarily around the Moffat County Public Safety Center, performing janitorial tasks, and also helped with Wellness Wednesdays, a program for seniors at American Legion Post 62.

Moffat County Sheriff Tim Jantz described Rojas as a “model inmate.”

First off, let the Editorial Board be clear: Sheriff Jantz has done a wonderful job during his first term leading the sheriff’s office.

He is running for re-election this year unopposed, and the board finds his seemingly smooth sailing into a second term reassuring — he was the right man for the job four years ago, as voters wisely recognized, and remains the right man today.

But, board members take issue with a couple of circumstances surrounding Rojas, a man who was convicted of bringing a lethal drug into our county, including his being allowed to work in the community.

But, that’s only one part to this multi-leveled failure.

First of all, the deal he received from prosecutors was weak. He was originally charged with three drug crimes, and that was later reduced to one.

Next, his sentence was a sham.

Prosecutors made a mistake in offering Rojas a deal, however they were on point with recommending a long prison sentence.

But, the court dropped the ball and gave him a slap on the wrist.

Lastly, this man, no matter how model of an inmate, shouldn’t be allowed in the community. Not around the safety center, and certainly not around older residents at Wellness Wednesdays.

Perhaps he isn’t a violent offender, but he was transporting a drug that’s roots are in illegal activity, and that activity inevitably includes violence.

It’s safe to say that more crime or negative repercussions would have been associated with the methamphetamine Rojas was transporting, whether it be through its’ sale, snaring others in its’ addiction, or causing other crimes, like addicts stealing or robbing from residents to get it.

Rojas, it seems, didn’t care about the fallout from what he was bringing to Moffat County.

Would he have cared about a teenager who bought the meth he brought here? Would he have cared about the law-abiding, hardworking people who lost property to tweakers stealing to get their next fix?

Would he have cared had someone gotten hurt or killed in a deal gone bad involving his meth?

Your answer to these questions is probably the same as ours — not at all.

In return, our community, courts and law enforcement shouldn’t be hesitant to hand out appropriate justice for his actions.

Many times these entities stand so firm against meth, a drug that has been nothing short of a plague on our community. This case, however, doesn’t meet those standards. It is much too lenient.

Don’t misunderstand: this board is advocating for justice, nothing more.

Board members believe in offering people second chances. Mistakes are made and people can learn from them and change for the better.

But, they need to be held accountable first. That doesn’t mean going to the extreme, but in this case it does mean finding a fair solution to both the offender and the society he recklessly ignored.

Comments

GreyStone 3 years, 9 months ago

I feel the judge let his compassion for humanity preclude his better judgment.

Judge Michael O’Hara, who sentenced Rojas to eight years at Correctional Alternative Placement Services in Craig rather than the eight years in prison recommended by the deputy district attorney, may have saved this up and coming drug dealer from being killed by La Familia in prison.

Or, we must be in dire need of more drug dealers and gardeners in Moffat county.

This drug person has little to no motivation to alter his life choices after he successfully scams the good citizens of this community, then returns to his chosen profession, drug dealer and future cook of methamphetamine.

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McGruber 3 years, 9 months ago

Decriminalize Drugs, Tax Them, Promote Treatment for abuse/addicts, Drug Test employees frequently, Problem solved.

This will cut costs that are crippling our correctional facilities and courts, raise much needed tax revenue, and decrease if not eliminate drug gang violence.

Anyone that wants drugs can get them. Why are we wasting billions of dollars on controlling people's personal choices? This is America right? Alcohol and tobacco are legal and they are definitely drugs.

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GreyStone 3 years, 9 months ago

McGruber,

To some extent I agree with you… sort of like survival of the fittest, let all the stupid people do whatever they want.

Today we seem to expect the government to be our baby sitter by protecting us from all the evils of the world.

There needs to be some regulation that protects society from these stupid people though

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rhammel 3 years, 9 months ago

Why are you, the Editorial Board, second guessing the Court? And the Sheriff says he is a model inmate. Looks to me that the Judge was correct.

Stay out of the Court's business.

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carn 3 years, 9 months ago

Maybe this all-seeing, all knowing board should get both sides of this story before they decide this man doesn't deserve the second chance they claim to believe in.

There is more to this story than what the DA's office tells you. As in most cases . . .

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George Robertson 3 years, 8 months ago

Out of curiousity I searched for a definition of "model inmate" and couldn't find one?

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twin2175 3 years, 8 months ago

McGruber,

Decriminalizing these harmful drugs is not the answer. In reality, if drugs are legalized more of our children will try them and are hooked on these lethal drugs. Then, we will end up with more violence because more people have to get their next fix and will do whatever it takes to get it.

Does Rojas have a prior criminal history? I did research online that shows that 99 grams of methamphetamine has an approximate street value of $10k, or higher in some parts of the country. While I can understand that Rojas is a “model inmate”, the punishment must fit the crime. We are continuing to let offenders make deals with prosecutors that let them off with an insignificant punishment and “another conviction” for the prosecutor. I am in the Criminal Justice program, and I know that 95% of all crimes are settled out of court. However, the judge has to approve the plea decision, and that is where the problem begins. We need to use the mandatory sentencing regulations, and make the criminals know that they will be held accountable if they commit crimes.

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Exres 3 years, 8 months ago

If there is little or no consequence for criminal behavior, then the criminal justice system isn't much of a deterrent for unlawful behavior. Prosecutors and judges must stand tall. If mandatory sentencing regulations are needed to bring this about, so be it.

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native_craig_guy 3 years, 8 months ago

 Lax sentences seem to be in vogue here in Moffat County. Corrupt public servants get time served (basically) and drug runners get community corrections. This is where I would want to commit a crime. What type of punishment would murder earn? Community Service? Weekends in Jail for three months? This is ridiculous. 
 I hate to get on the soap box again about CAPS, but I do not like the fact that this exists in our community. Here we have an example of an individual who was caught driving through Moffat County and now could be staying with us for 8 years? Is this the type of people we want to attract to our community? Now he will have family move here and we will bring in more of the trashy environment that either produced, or enabled his criminal behaviors. I do not know how to go about removing CAPS fro our community but I would gladly sign a petition or start a campaign to do so.
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kp81625 3 years, 8 months ago

Maybe he was given the chance to take the Johnson (Ken) defense. Who knows? I'm just sayin...

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McGruber 3 years, 8 months ago

Twin2175, So are going to make alcohol and tobacco illegal too? More people die from alcohol and tobacco than all other drugs combined. If people can't teach their kids to stay away from drugs then they are bad parents. Why do we have to waste money on other people's stupidity?

What gives you the right to tell other people what that can not do in the privacy of their own homes?

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GreyStone 3 years, 8 months ago

If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, we can stick it in CAPS for eight years and we may just get a penguin when we let it out. Maybe not, we might just get our duck back.

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George Robertson 3 years, 8 months ago

I think "model inmate" must be a person that is perfectly suited to be in jail, so why did they let him out???

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twin2175 3 years, 8 months ago

Native_Craig_Guy I like your idea about trying to get CAPS out of the city. Maybe someone in the city could answer this question for me: What percentage of the CAPS inmates relapse and end up back in jail/prison? Through being around and working in the Craig, I have met many current and prior CAPS inmates. Just from the people that I have met, I would say that 85% of them have relapsed and ended right back in the slammer. Or, they escape, and are never found again. So, what advantage is there in keeping CAPS open in our city? P.S. To the few of you that have made it through CAPS and NEVER gone back, good job on becoming a functioning part of our society.

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GreyStone 3 years, 8 months ago

Moffat county will get a High speed lawn mower operator… considering the drug of choice of the new lawn mower person.

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GreyStone 3 years, 8 months ago

“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.”

What goes on during a “plea agreement” ? Is there a process of give and take or is this process strictly one sided where the people make all the concessions ?

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native_craig_guy 3 years, 8 months ago

I wonder if the courts are simply "pleading out" cases so that they do not have to spend the money on litigation.

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Anitadunnce 3 years, 8 months ago

Reply to GreyStone on July 24th @7:56am. You are so right. NO community in Colorado, or anywhere else in the United States, needs Mexican drug dealers OR illegal gardeners.

My suggestion: support Tom Tancredo in the Colorado gubernatorial race. He soon will announce his bid on the American Constitutional Party ticket. Support Tancredo with your presents, your presence, and your prayers (I paraphrase the Methodists), and once Tancredo is elected, he will get for Colorado a good, fair, honest, constitutionally-sound law just like the one that will prevail soon in Arizona against Obama's and Holder's mindless, money-squandering attacks.

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McGruber 3 years, 8 months ago

Yes please support Tancredo everybody, then Hick definitely wins yeah!

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Anitadunnce 3 years, 8 months ago

So, McGruber, I'm curious. If you do not support Tancredo, which of the ethically-challenged Repub candidates for Governor has your vote? Do you really believe that either McInnis or Maes has a snowball's chance in the general election? Frankly, McInnis just creeps me out.... the plagiarism, the excuse-making regarding the cheating, the return of the $300-K which serves as a tacit admission of wrong-doing.... and McInnis has creepy, too direct, eye contact. Maes is an unknown and has his own ethics and tax problems. Both are very bad choices.

Don't get me wrong, McGruber. I think Hickenlooper is a stuttering, stammering, dishonest loser who lies about his close relationship with Van Jones, and who wants to do to Colorado what he has done to (the Sanctuary City) Denver, but I also am disgusted with the Repubs in Colorado, who cannot organize to put up better candidates. Hickenlooper will be the same sort of disaster that Obama is. Coloradans deserve much better.

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McGruber 3 years, 8 months ago

I like Hick and now hes definitely going to win. Yeah!

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Anitadunnce 3 years, 8 months ago

That's amazing stuff, McGruber. I do not think that I have ever heard anyone say before "I like Hick". I thought the stuttering, stammering guy, ethically challenged on the Van Jones and other issues, and the worst public speaker we have ever seen in this state, was just winning by default, because the opposition was so weak.

As I said, you have taken a nearly unprecedented position, McGruber. Do you also like high crime; running away from the accident as a form of automobile insurance; crowded schools; laid-off teachers; closed hospitals; Mexican methamphetamines destroying Indian reservation communities; collection of the Earned Income Credit without payment of a nickel in income tax; and jammed Courts. . . all due to illegal immigration? Clearly, you must. If so, then vote for Hickenlooper, as he will bring you all of that, and more.

This morning, the news reports state that 559 illegal alien children and/or children of illegal alien parents failed to show up for school in Phoenix alone. These illegal aliens are fleeing Arizona to head to Colorado, among other places, to be a drain on the finances of other states. Arizona is a clear example and a beacon: enforcement of our federal laws works!

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McGruber 3 years, 8 months ago

blah blah blah, I like Hick and so will the majority of Colorado. Wahoo!

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Anitadunnce 3 years, 8 months ago

McGruber, I have to confess. You had me fooled. I thought I was dealing with an intelligent, informed human being who simply held an opposing point of view. I was wrong on two out of three: I still assume you are a human being, however.... I got that one right. It's very telling when you can't win a discussion and thus resort to "blah blah blah".

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dexter 3 years, 8 months ago

Gosh Nimrod, I wonder how you came up with your name? Apparently there are an awful lot of folks who have never taken a Criminal Justice class. You learn about things like this in class. MODEL PRISONER/GOOD CONDUCT WHILE INCARCERATED AND/OR IN COURT Model Prisoner: This category consists of cases in which the defendant behaves well or did good things while incarcerated or at trial. There are several sub-categories: (1) Evidence that the defendant had few if any disciplinary write-ups and/or aided in thwarting criminal activities from other inmates, and/or behaved well during the trial; (2) Evidence that the defendant improved his education and helped other become educated; (3) Evidence that the defendant developed spirituality; and (4) Evidence that the defendant has shown personal growth/adopted new, positive goals.

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GreyStone 3 years, 8 months ago

Now we have a drug dealer that pretends he is now a religious person so he can get a reduced sentence and gain model prisoner status… what a novel idea.

What is a scam?

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carn 3 years, 8 months ago

I would say "Greystone as a philosopher" is a scam. He thinks no further than himself.

Come on, dude. Broaden your horizons. Better yet, get the facts before you go off on a tangent . . . "a drug dealer who pretends he is now a religious person"? Wow.

Greystone would like you to think that he has visited with Fernando personally. Bet you $100 bucks he can't even put a face to the name . . . Bet you another $50 he doesn't know where Greystone is. I grew up there. I know.

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George Robertson 3 years, 8 months ago

I never felt the need to take a criminal justice class, mainly because I don't intend to become a criminal or a "model inmate" thank you. P.S. you can find the name in the dictionary.

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Anitadunnce 3 years, 8 months ago

C'mon, Nim...... ya gotta admit that was a goofy response, a nonsequitur really. People study archaeology, too, but not because they plan to become rocks.

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GreyStone 3 years, 8 months ago

Carn, Visiting with a person like Fernando is not on my list of fashionable things to do.

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Anitadunnce 3 years, 8 months ago

GreyStone, you used the word "fashionable". Are you a female? It's not really a guy-word, especially not among the macho "he-men" with which Moffat County is heavily populated. So, are you a woman? Just curious.

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GreyStone 3 years, 8 months ago

Antiadunce,,

No, I am an old guy, not a dude, who’s family came to Western Colorado in the 1890’s and I do know where GreyStone Colorado is. I used the term fashionable because it seems to represent the most ridiculous idea that having a face to face conversation with a convicted drug dealer might change my mind about his convictions. The guy was transporting a commodity that is a deadly substance.

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Anitadunnce 3 years, 8 months ago

GreyStone, I agree with you. Mexican Meth is responsible for the destruction of at least two Indian tribes in Wyoming, plus countless other lives. There is NO excuse for leniency granted in these Meth cases, in my view, and it is one of the best reasons to push for utter SEALING UP of the southern U.S. border.

I would like to see everyone who goes in or out of the U.S. through Mexico be forced to FLY. Then the U.S. Customs officials would have a chance to actually check I.D.'s, contents of luggage, etc., and it would stop all the truckloads of human and drug cargo.

I envision at least a 30-foot high, solid concrete wall several feet thick with our border patrol in towers overlooking the border, with orders to shoot anyone attempting to cross into he U.S. Yes, I know this sounds extreme, but I think that extreme measures are required when the circumstances of our attack are extreme. If there is anything that is clear from all of the Arizona demonstrations against enforcement of U.S. immigration law, it is that La Raza and the other pro-illegal groups have NO respect for our people, our country, our langauge, our flags, our government, our struggling economy, our income tax structure to which they contribute zip, etc. They ALL need to forcibly be kept out.

Anyway, I enjoyed your use of "fashionable". It is a somewhat old-fashioned word that is not used enough.

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carn 3 years, 8 months ago

Great ideas, Anitadunnce. Yes, all these controls would be great to put in place. This case, however, did not involve an illegal alien coming across the Mexican border. He was an American-born citizen coming from Salt Lake City. Now what?

As I said before, there is quite a little information missing here. Only a lazy person would pass judgement on this man soley on what he gets from the Daily Press Editorial Board, which is also apparently too lazy to look at all the facts first. I guess being spoon-fed is quite fashionable these days. Thinking for yourself is apparently "unfashionable".

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twin2175 3 years, 8 months ago

Carn, In this case, I don't think that it matters whether the CDP adds information, or leaves some out. The facts are that Rojas transported drugs into our county. Rojas not only had possession of 99 grams of methamphetamine, he was also transporting the meth with the intent to distribute here in Moffat County. What more do you need to know. There is no question as to whether he did or didn't have the meth on him. This criminal had the meth on him when he was pulled over in our county. END OF SUBJECT; THROW THE BOOK AT HIM!!!

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