Friday, April 13, 2007

Judge sentences drug dealer to 16 years

Ochoa-Ramos to serve eight years before he?s eligible for parole

Express Staff Writer

Arbi Ochoa-Ramos

Judge Barry Wood ignored a request for leniency and sentenced a convicted drug dealer to 16 years in prison during a hearing Tuesday afternoon in Blaine County 5th District Court in Hailey.

Arbi Ochoa-Ramos, a 32-year-old former Ketchum resident, must serve eight years of his sentence before he's eligible for parole. The defendant pleaded guilty in February to one felony count of trafficking in cocaine in exchange for the Blaine County Prosecuting Attorney's Office dismissing 11 other felony drug charges that date back to 2001.

"By any definition, Mr. Ochoa, you are a professional criminal," Wood told the defendant during sentencing.

Ochoa-Ramos was indicted on the 12 charges by a Blaine County grand jury in February 2001. He was one of numerous suspects in a 2001 drug investigation by the county's Narcotics Enforcement Team. Fourteen other people were arrested in drug raids, but Ochoa-Ramos managed to escape and remained at large until he was found in northern California last August.

Public defender Cheri Hicks asked Wood for leniency in sentencing, saying that Ochoa-Ramos "turned his life around on his own" in the years he remained a fugitive.

"Mr. Ochoa does have two young daughters to support along with his common-law wife," Hicks said. She requested that Wood sentence Ochoa-Ramos to only eight years in prison, four of them to be served before he's eligible for parole.

"I am sorry and I want to repent," Ochoa-Ramos said in Spanish, his words translated by a court interpreter.

But Wood was unmoved and sentenced Ochoa to the prison term recommended by Prosecuting Attorney Jim Thomas.

Citing entries in a pre-sentence investigation report, Wood said that Ochoa-Ramos had been heavily involved in the illegal drug trade and had sold large amounts of methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin and marijuana. At the time of the drug raid, materials for processing, weighing and packaging illegal drugs were found at Ochoa-Ramos' residence, the judge continued.

"Sort of a little mini-market of drugs, I guess," Wood told the defendant.

"It would be naïve on my part to not understand what was going on here with that mixture of substances," Wood said.

Ochoa-Ramos was also fined $25,000 and ordered to pay an unspecified amount for restitution.

He was given credit for 221 days already spent in jail.

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