Meth case suspects appear in court
The 14 people arrested last week in a massive drug sweep each face as many as 32 years in prison if convicted of distributing methamphetamine, a judge said Wednesday.
Thirteen of the 14 suspects appeared via videoconference from the county jail in Moffat County Court on Wednesday to be advised of their charges.
All 14 people — nine men and five women — are from Craig.
Local law enforcement officers and the Greater Routt and Moffat Narcotics Enforcement Team rounded up the suspects Dec. 21 and 22 after a six-month investigation.
Police say they have evidence that all 14 people sold drugs to undercover officers and informants.
The 14 Craig residents face felony charges of distributing meth and felony possession of meth.
The only suspect who didn’t appear in court Wednesday was Julie McLeslie, 34, who is in Mesa County Jail on separate charges.
The 13 suspects appeared in four groups.
County Judge Mary Lynne James informed the suspects of their charges and told them the date police say the suspects sold drugs to informants or officers.
One of the suspects, Sherry Bristow, 22, told the judge she wasn’t in town when police say she sold drugs.
But the judge told her that Wednesday’s advisement hearing wasn’t the place to contest the charges.
“If it’s wrong, you have an opportunity to challenge it at the preliminary hearing,” James said.
James also told the suspects she would not lower the $50,000 bond in any of their cases without a written request and a formal bond hearing.
In response to the judge’s bond decision, one of the suspects, Paul Mendoza, 39, jokingly asked the judge if the decision was personal.
“Do you hate us?” asked Mendoza, who was in jail last week on separate charges.
Mendoza’s question got a laugh out of the dozen or so people in the courtroom watching the proceedings.
Judge James said she didn’t hate the suspects, and that they were innocent until proven guilty.
But the judge also told the suspects that she was familiar with their individual cases and that the charges they face were serious.
“Meth is a cancer on Craig right now,” James said.
James also advised the 14 suspects that if they want to apply for the public defender, they should do so as quickly as possible.
The public defender can’t represent all of the suspects, so James would have to ask local attorneys to handle some cases, she said.
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Routt County is working with both Rio Blanco and Moffat counties and municipalities across northwestern Colorado to create an umbrella organization to better coordinate and pursue economic development in the region.