Cleared by jury of meth trafficking, man gets 15 months for skipping trial
But with credit for more than a year of time served awaiting his second trial date in Eagle County, Echevarria-Castro might not face much prison time
EAGLE — A Kentucky man that a jury found not guilty of possessing and trafficking 5 pounds of methamphetamine was sentenced to 15 months in state prison Wednesday for not showing up to his original three-day trial set for May 2019.
Standing trial in early March, Enrique Echevarria-Castro, 38, argued he could not show up for his original trial almost two years earlier because he was too busy looking for his mentally ill father who had just gone missing in Arizona.
The argument did not sway jurors, who convicted Echevarria-Castro of violating his bond conditions for not showing up for the trial. Nor did it convince Eagle County District Court Judge Paul R. Dunkelman, who sentenced him for the felony conviction on Wednesday.
“Once you failed to appear, you failed to address the issue. You did not come back, turn yourself in and deal with it,” Judge Dunkelman said, noting that attorneys and around 250 potential jurors were there at court and ready to start the trial on the scheduled date.
Echevarria-Castro apologized for missing the May 2019 trial. But he also maintained that he had been falsely accused by police of drug possession and trafficking charges that he was ultimately found not guilty of, and spent more than a year in jail awaiting his second trial date.
With credit for 371 days already served in the county jail, Echevarria-Castro will probably be released on parole quickly if not immediately by the Colorado Department of Corrections, Judge Dunkelman said.
Jurors also convicted Echevarria-Castro of false reporting, a misdemeanor, for giving a false name to Eagle County Sheriff’s Office deputies on the night of his arrest. He was sentenced to 88 days in the county jail on that charge and given credit for 88 days already served.
Echevarria-Castro was a passenger in a car that Eagle County Sheriff’s Office deputies stopped in Edwards during the early morning hours of Sept.29, 2018. Deputies arrested Echevarria-Castro after finding 5 pounds of methamphetamine in a backpack on the floor of the backseat area where he was sitting. Deputies also arrested the driver of the car, Jorge Alcolea-Argote, 35, who later pleaded guilty to two drug felonies and was sentenced to four years in prison, while a front seat passenger was let go.
Echevarria-Castro was charged with possession of methamphetamine and possession with intent to sell or distribute, both class 1 drug felonies punishable by 8-32 years in prison.
At trial, defense attorney John Scott successfully argued that police and prosecutors had no evidence linking the methamphetamine to Echevarria-Castro, and that Echevarria-Castro was simply someone getting a ride back to Kentucky from Utah from two people he did not know, through a ride service that his wife had helped arrange through a social media website.
Even if Echevarria-Castro is released from state prison in short order, however, he will be sent back to Kentucky to face pending charges of methamphetamine trafficking there. In that case, U.S. Postal Service inspectors allegedly intercepted a package of 1 pound of meth that was mailed from Arizona to a man sharing a house with Echevarria-Castro in Louisville, with law enforcement then watching that man hand the package to Echevarria-Castro after doing a staged delivery, according to an affidavit.
Tom Lotshaw can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.