Eli Ramos, a resident of Mexico, was sentenced Tuesday afternoon in Moffat County District Court to serve six years in prison after pleading guilty to possession with intent to distribute a Schedule 2 controlled substance, a Class 3 felony.
Ramos reached a plea agreement with the 14th Judicial District Attorney’s Office on July 13. The plea deal stipulated Ramos could not be sentenced to more than six years in prison if he pleaded guilty to the charge.
According to court records, Ramos was arrested Aug. 15, 2009, while driving through Maybell with Utah resident Fernando Rojas.
The two were stopped by two Moffat County Sheriff’s Office deputies, and were found in possession of 99 grams of methamphetamine after the car was searched by a drug-sniffing dog, according to court records.
Ramos appeared Tuesday before Michael O’Hara, chief judge of the 14th Judicial District. Ramos received credit for 390 days served in Moffat County Jail awaiting settlement of his case.
Jon Pfeifer, a Moffat County deputy district attorney, recommended Ramos be sentenced to six years in prison.
“I do feel that a Department of Corrections sentence is appropriate given the quantity of methamphetamine that he was bringing into our community, along with Mr. Rojas,” Pfeifer said.
Attorney John Prater represented Ramos, who does not speak English.
“He made a bad mistake in the way that he was attempting to make some money to support his family in Mexico,” Prater said. “He has got a wife and three children, and he came here in order to take care of his family.”
Prater said Ramos is a “family man” and a “good man” that made a “tragic mistake in judgment.”
Prater asked O’Hara to have Ramos deported back to Mexico.
“He cannot be in community corrections because of his immigration status,” Prater said. “I do a lot of immigration work and I can attest to this court that this type of offense on his record will bar him forever from coming to the United States. He cannot come back.”
Ramos addressed O’Hara through a translator before sentencing.
“The only thing I want to do is ask the people for forgiveness for what I did,” he said. “I am in your hands. I want to live with my children. They need me.”
Before O’Hara sentenced Ramos, he debated Rojas’ sentencing and what punishment Ramos should receive.
Rojas was sentenced July 15 to eight years of community corrections after reaching a plea agreement with the district attorney’s office.
Pfeifer recommended to the court that Rojas be sentenced to eight years in prison. O’Hara, however, sentenced Rojas to Correctional Alternative Placement Services in Craig.
O’Hara said Tuesday the court “does try to balance and sentence similarly-situated people in a similar fashion,” referring to the Rojas case.
“I appreciate that it seems unfair that Mr. Rojas, by virtue of citizenship, was able to come to court and demonstrate everything he had done to give back to the community during the year he was in jail,” O’Hara said. “Mr. Ramos was not permitted those opportunities because of his immigration status.
“It is important to all courts to be fair. I cannot impose a sentence in this case that is going to appear fair to everyone.”
O’Hara said another factor he must take into consideration is if the sentence he gives will “deter others from engaging in this conduct.”
“Simply closing your case and allowing you to go back to Mexico today, in my opinion, would encourage others to engage in this conduct,” he said. “It would demonstrate the risk for such behavior is small.”
Ramos, upon hearing the sentence, pleaded with the judge to reconsider his decision.
“I think it is very unfair that you are sentencing me to six years in prison when Fernando Rojas, who had a major role in this, was sentenced to CAPS,” he said through the translator.
After sentencing, Pfeifer said he thought the sentence was “fair” given the nature of the crime.
“If you bring a large quantity of drugs into our community, you should be sentenced to prison,” he said.
Pfeifer said he was pleased the judge agreed with his sentencing recommendation.
“My job at sentencing is to make an argument, and when the judge accepts an argument I made, I feel like I have done my job,” he said.