WINNEMUCCA — Whatever the plea negotiations, the ultimate sentence a defendant gets is up to the judge. Lesson learned for Ramiro Gutierrez, whose 4-10 year prison sentence for drug trafficking was more than expected.
As a result of a plea agreement, the defendant pleaded no contest to drug trafficking/methamphetamine level II, a category B felony. Humboldt County DA Roger Whomes recommended a prison sentence of 3-7 years and defense counsel Robert Hager asked for a minimum of two years.
Gutierrez was in 6th Judicial District Court for sentencing on Tuesday (June 7) where Judge Robert Estes was apparently not in a minimum-sentence mood.
Referencing the defendant’s four children, Estes said, “I’d bet a $1 to a pinch of pig manure that you wouldn’t want someone selling methamphetamine to your children. That’s what you were doing. You were selling meth to other people’s children.”
For medical reasons Gutierrez was not taken into custody immediately. He was ordered to report to the Humboldt County Detention Center on July 7 and from there will be transported to prison to begin his sentence.
Gutierrez was arrested in 2009. The trial was delayed over the course of many months as the defense fought a long battle to have the original trial judge removed from the case over allegations of bias.
Hager also alleged Gutierrez was the fall-guy for actions taken by his girlfriend, the mother of his four children. Hager alleged the girlfriend was actually the person involved in drug trafficking, but she was protected because of her father’s position with law enforcement and the court.
The girlfriend’s name is not being released here because she was not implicated in the drug trafficking. Instead, she received a lesser charge and was ordered into drug court.
During sentencing, Hager noted the confidential informant working for law enforcement dealt exclusively with the girlfriend; the controlled buys occurred at the girlfriend’s house; when the search warrant was issued the drugs were located at the girlfriend’s house, not the defendant’s; the girlfriend tested positive for drug use, not the defendant.
Yet, it was Gutierrez who was arrested and charged with drug trafficking.
Hager noted people all over the world people are fighting for Democracy. He commented, “It’s not just to have the right to go in and vote for somebody. It’s to have a change in society so everybody is treated equally.”
He argued but for the involvement of the girlfriend there would have been no drug sales.
Judge Estes said he wouldn’t second-guess the DA’s Office decision in regards the charges, because there might be facts of the case unknown to him, but if he was DA there might have been someone else on the docket for sentencing along with Gutierrez.
Hager painted a picture of Gutierrez as a good employee and a good father who took financial responsibility for his children.
Hager commented, “From my own experience, and I’ve handled hundreds of drug cases, a one-ounce dealer, whether it’s ounce dealers of methamphetamine or ounce dealers of cocaine, they don’t have full-time jobs. They make enough money based upon their income that they’re getting from drug sales.”
Yet, Gutierrez worked full-time and was thought of as a good employee, Hager said.
In asking for a lesser sentence of two years, Hager concluded it would be appropriate to look at the two parties involved in the case; to consider what happened to one and what happened to the other.
But Judge Estes was not prepared to let Gutierrez off the hook. He noted at the time Gutierrez was arrested, the defendant had more than $6,000 in cash.
Estes said, “No one, except maybe a baccarat dealer at Caesar’s Palace, walks around with that kind of money in the trunk of their car.”
In addition to the money, at the time of the arrest authorities also seized drugs, smoking pipes and scales.
Estes sentenced Gutierrez to the 4-10 year prison sentence, he was ordered to pay all the usual fines, and was also sentenced to pay $500 in restitution for the money used by law enforcement in the controlled buys during the investigation.