Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Suspect pleads guilty to cocaine charge

Hailey man admits to arranging drug deal

Express Staff Writer

Roberto Bernabez

A Hailey man pleaded guilty Monday to distribution of cocaine even though he said he only arranged the deal.

"If you put the sale together, you can be just as guilty as if you made the sale yourself," 5th District Court Judge Robert J. Elgee told Roberto Bernabez, 30.

The guilty plea was in accord with a plea agreement with the Blaine County Prosecuting Attorney's Office, which will recommend at sentencing that Bernabez be given a seven-year sentence with three years to be spent in prison before he is eligible for parole.

Bernabez told Elgee that he was hesitant to plead guilty but was doing so "because I'm afraid I'll get more time if I don't."

"You understand that may not necessarily be the case," said Elgee, who further informed the defendant that the sentence could range from probation up to life in prison. Elgee said that even if he follows the recommendation of the prosecutor, that doesn't guarantee that Bernabez will be released on parole after serving three years.

"You would go to the penitentiary with three years fixed and four years indeterminate," the judge said. "The penitentiary can keep you there for seven years, or they can put you on parole for four years."

Elgee accepted the defendant's guilty plea after Bernabez admitted to the crime. Sentencing was scheduled for Dec. 29 at 9 a.m.

Bernabez has been incarcerated in the Blaine County Jail since his arrest by Hailey police on July 5. The arrest resulted from a warrant from a grand jury indictment that charged him with distribution of cocaine for a drug deal in Hailey on Nov. 8, 2007.

In making the arrest, police shot Bernabez with a taser when he was allegedly uncooperative when confronted on McKercher Boulevard. A taser is a hand-held instrument that can be applied directly or can fire probes. Either means of application delivers a high-voltage electrical shock that typically immobilizes a victim.

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