Friday, March 4, 2011

Santos pleads guilty in meth case

Former Johnson boyfriend to get at least 5 years in prison


By TERRY SMITH
Express Staff Writer

Bruno Santos

The former boyfriend of convicted murderer Sarah Johnson effectively sentenced himself to at least five years in prison Tuesday morning by pleading guilty to selling methamphetamine last year to an Idaho State Police undercover detective.

Twenty-seven-year-old Bruno Santos, who has lived off and on in the Wood River Valley much of his life, admitted in Blaine County 5th District Court to the felony crime of trafficking in methamphetamine. His admission came the morning a trial was set to start on the case.

Ninety-six prospective jurors were called to 5th District Court in Hailey Tuesday for the pending trial. After sitting through a jury-briefing presentation, Judge Robert J. Elgee thanked the group for coming and then told them they could leave because the case had been settled.

"It's not uncommon for people not to make up their minds until they get to the courthouse," said Ketchum attorney Dan Dolan, who was court-appointed to represent Santos. "Bruno decided that he should take responsibility for his criminal conduct and plead guilty."

What is uncommon is that Santos pleaded guilty without first entering into a plea agreement with the Blaine County Prosecuting Attorney's Office.

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"There was not a plea agreement offered that was acceptable to Bruno," Dolan said.

With a plea agreement, prosecutors typically agree to recommend a sentence to a judge that is less than the maximum amount that the court could order. But plea agreement or not, sentencing is still at the discretion of the judge, and judges have a tendency to give lighter sentences to defendants who accept responsibility and readily admit to their crimes.

Santos' crime originated on May 14 when he sold a half pound of methamphetamine in a prearranged buy to undercover ISP Detective Rich Garcia in Hailey. Santos has remained incarcerated since in the Blaine County jail.

Santos—who court records say is an illegal immigrant—faces up to a life sentence for the conviction. Under Idaho code, he will be given a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison because the amount of methamphetamine he sold is greater than 200 grams. A half pound is equal to 226.7 grams.

Sentencing is scheduled for April 18.

In a separate case, Santos is also charged with two other felony drug sales for allegedly selling cocaine on two occasions to a Blaine County Narcotics Enforcement Team confidential informant in Ketchum in April. A jury trial in that case is scheduled to begin on May 3.

According to the prosecuting attorney's office, Santos has been deported twice. He was returned to Mexico after the Johnson trial in 2005 and was deported a second time in March 2010.

Terry Smith: tsmith@mtexpress.com




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