Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Accused drug dealer pleads not guilty

10th suspect arraigned on felony drug charges

Francisco Vega-Salinas, Jose Antonio Hurtado Jr.

A tenth suspect arrested in a major drug bust in Ketchum and Hailey last month pleaded not guilty Monday to felony drug charges in 5th District Court.

Francisco Vega-Salinas, a 28-year-old Bellevue man, entered his plea before Judge Robert J. Elgee at arraignment Monday morning in Hailey. Nine other suspects, who are charged with various drug offenses, entered not guilty pleas on May 14.

In a separate court hearing, Elgee reduced bail for another of the defendants, but only by 20 percent.

Vega-Salinas is one of 11 suspects identified by the Blaine County Narcotics Enforcement Team following a drug bust on April 11 at one home in Ketchum and two in Hailey. The 11th suspect, 32-year-old Jorge Flores-Quintana, is currently in maximum-security custody on an unrelated charge at the Idaho state prison in Boise.

Vega-Salinas, who is free on $40,000 bond, appeared before Elgee with his attorney Michael Kraynick. A Blaine County grand jury indictment, filed on April 20, charges Vega-Salinas with two counts of delivery of methamphetamine and two counts of failure to affix drug tax stamps.

Elgee told the defendant that he could be sentenced to up to 25 years in prison on each of the delivery charges and up to seven years in prison on each of the alleged drug tax stamp infractions.

Elgee scheduled a three-day jury trial to start at 9 a.m. on Sept. 25.

Also appearing before Elgee on Monday was Jose Antonio Hurtado Jr., a 25-year-old Hailey man charged by a grand jury indictment with two counts of delivery of methamphetamine, two counts of delivery of a controlled substance within 1,000 feet of a school and two counts of failure to affix drug tax stamps.

Public defender Douglas Werth asked Elgee to reduce bond for Hurtado, who Werth said is a U.S. citizen who has lived in Blaine County for four years. Werth further said Hurtado has a job and family in the area and his only prior conviction was for misdemeanor domestic battery.

"I don't believe this represents a significant flight risk for Mr. Hurtado," Werth said.

Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Warren Christiansen argued that Hurtado has also been charged in Idaho with contempt of court and violation of a no-contact order and in California with carrying a concealed weapon, leaving the scene of an injury accident and "bail jumping."

"His criminal history warrants a high bond," Christiansen said.

After considering the matter, Elgee reduced bond for the suspect from $100,000 to $80,000.

"Not what I would call a good criminal record," Elgee said. "Guns, bail jumping, failure to appear in court—we don't know the disposition of all of these, but there's been a lot of contact with law enforcement."

Hurtado remained incarcerated Tuesday morning in the Blaine County Jail.

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