A Los Angeles man has been sentenced to three and a half years in prison for being the "California connection" in a cocaine deal gone awry in Blaine County in 2010.
Instead of being an actual drug deal, it was a sting operation engineered by the Blaine County Narcotics Enforcement Team and Idaho State Police Investigations.
Sentence was pronounced on Monday in Blaine County 5th District Court for 21-year-old Rodrigo Gomez-Cruz on a felony charge of aiding and abetting delivery of cocaine. Judge Robert J. Elgee ordered that the defendant spend a year and a half in prison before parole eligibility, but gave him credit for 215 days already spent behind bars. Once released, Gomez-Cruz will likely be deported to Mexico.
Gomez-Cruz is one of nine people indicted by a Blaine County jury in June 2011 on various felony drug charges from a yearlong Narcotics Enforcement Team and ISP investigation. Originally charged with aiding and abetting trafficking in cocaine, Gomez-Cruz pleaded guilty to the lesser delivery charge in November 2011.
Under Idaho law, drug trafficking is a more serious offense than drug delivery because it involves greater quantities of an illegal substance. It is punishable by a minimum three-year fixed prison sentence.
The defendant's guilty plea was in accord with an agreement with the Blaine County Prosecuting Attorney's Office. As part of the agreement, prosecutors agreed to have dismissed a separate felony "possession of a controlled substance" charge against Gomez-Cruz, and Gomez-Cruz agreed to surrender his vehicle, a 2001 Toyota Camry, to Blaine County and ISP.
A separate civil case was filed by the county and ISP seeking to seize the vehicle because it was used in an illegal drug deal.
The grand jury indictment against Gomez-Cruz accused him of being the supplier in a cocaine sale on Oct. 27, 2010, to a police confidential informant.
The "possession of a controlled substance" case against Gomez-Cruz arose on Oct. 29, 2010, when he was arrested following a traffic stop near Timmerman Junction.
In pronouncing sentence, Elgee alleged that the fact that the defendant was charged with two separate drug felonies within a short period of time was evidence that he was "involved in the drug trade."
"I do believe the case warrants a prison sentence," the judge said.
Prosecuting Attorney Jim Thomas argued before sentence was pronounced that some of the drugs involved in the grand jury charges were brought to Blaine County by a "California connection" and that "Gomez-Cruz was the guy from California."
Defense attorney Andrew Parnes argued against a prison sentence, saying his client should be sentenced to time served.
Parnes said Gomez-Cruz deserved a lenient sentence because he voluntarily came to Blaine County to surrender once he was informed of the grand jury indictment against him. At the time, Parnes noted, Gomez-Cruz was free on $10,000 bail from the controlled substance charge and on $3,000 bail from a federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainer for being in the United States illegally.
"I think if Mr. Gomez-Cruz was a legal resident, this might be a case of probation," Parnes said. "He will serve whatever time the court imposes, then he will be turned over to immigration and be deported.
"He's not going to fight back. He just wants this over so he can move on with his life."
Terry Smith: firstname.lastname@example.org