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Meth Business Was Run Out of Colorado Community Corrections Facility

Methamphetamine continues to be a major drug enforcement problem in Colorado, with wide availability throughout the state. Although the drug is usually obtained from Mexican producers, local criminal groups dominate distribution of the drug in the western states.

In the recent federal case of U.S. v. Loya-Medina, one of these groups was charged with conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine after federal agents made controlled buys from the network. The group of six decided to begin their drug operation while living in a community corrections facility as part of a previous state drug conviction.

Part Drug Ledger, Part Child's Coloring Book

The defendant in Loya-Medina challenged the introduction into evidence at his case part of a notebook that contained listings of drug transactions. Two pages of the notebook were not admitted into evidence because it had cartoons and writing that seemed to be part of a child's school lessons. The defendant wanted to bring in those pages to show the origin of the notebook, that it was a child's book and not a drug ledger.

Unfortunately for the defendants, the rest of the book and other evidence at trial led to the conclusion that it was a drug ledger. Because there was no misunderstanding about what the notebook contained, there was no need to bring in the other pages to explain any ambiguities.

Prosecutor's Unintentional Mention of Conspiracy Was Not Misconduct

In a ruling outside the hearing of the jury, the judge said that statements by the members of the group could be admitted into evidence against each other because there was enough preliminary evidence of the existence of a conspiracy. When the prosecutor tried to bring in testimony about the confidential informant and the defense objected, he told the judge that the informant was part of the conspiracy.

The judge found that since the remark was made to the judge, not the jury, in a subdued tone which did not reference the defendants, it did not impact the jury, nor impair the defendant's right to a fair trial. An instruction from the judge that the attorneys' remarks and the judge's evidence rulings were not evidence was enough to cure the minor mistake.

Approximation Allowed in Calculation of Drug Amount

Federal sentencing for drug crimes hinges on the amount of the drug sold or distributed, and there are strict sentencing guidelines that must be followed. The defendant in Loya-Medina requested a sentence reduction due to his lack of serious involvement in the crime. He claimed that the drug quantity calculation in his presentencing report, which was relied upon in his sentencing, was not accurate, even though he did not dispute the report. The jury found him responsible for only the minimum amounts on each count.

Under federal law, the court could connect a higher drug quantity to him than what the jury found, or adopt the PSR amount. Also, the court could estimate the amount of conspiracy-related drugs attributable to the defendant from the amounts seized from him to extrapolate the amounts over the six-month surveillance period. There was sufficient support in the record to warrant that calculation, and it did not violate the defendant's substantial rights.

Federal drug cases involve serious penalties including prison time and the loss of other rights such as professional licenses or gun permits. If you are charged with a crime like the one in this case, it is crucial to consult with an attorney experienced with federal drug and sentencing laws.

Call me at (303) 622-3281 today to schedule your complimentary case evaluation.

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