Alleged drug kingpin will likely go to trial, defense lawyer says
The Associated Press FARGO -- The alleged ringleader of a drug conspiracy that led to indictments of more than 50 people likely will go to trial rather than seek a plea agreement, his lawyer says. Jorge "Sneaky" Arandas is facing a dozen charges ...
The Associated Press
FARGO -- The alleged ringleader of a drug conspiracy that led to indictments of more than 50 people likely will go to trial rather than seek a plea agreement, his lawyer says.
Jorge "Sneaky" Arandas is facing a dozen charges in the case, including murder in furtherance of a continuing criminal enterprise. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of life in prison without parole.
"We have no incentive not to go to trial," Steven Mottinger, Arandas' lawyer, said Monday after a status conference in the case known as "Operation Speed Racer."
None of the defendants has yet gone to trial. U.S. District Judge Ralph Erickson approved a motion Monday to consolidate the trials of five people, including Arandas, for Oct. 9.
Authorities said the conspiracy brought methamphetamine, marijuana and cocaine from Mexico and the West Coast to North Dakota and other states. At least 45 people have pleaded guilty, including one woman who admitted her role Monday in a drug deal that prosecutors said led to the killing of Lee Avila, 28, of East Grand Forks, Minn.
Rosalba Botello-Ochoa pleaded guilty to distributing meth to Avila at a south Fargo car wash. Prosecutors said Avila later was killed in a dispute over the transaction.
Arandas, Gabriel Martinez and Alan Wessels have been charged in the death of Avila. Michael Petzold pleaded guilty to murder in furtherance of a continuing criminal enterprise and was ordered to serve 30 years in prison and cooperate with authorities. A fifth suspect, Martin Carrillo, remains at large.
The government announced last month it would not seek the death penalty if Arandas, Martinez and Wessels are convicted. "That took a big load off everybody's shoulders," Mottinger said.
The lawyer for another defendant in the case, Derek Carlson, opposed the motion to consolidate trials with Arandas, Martinez and Wessels. Attorney Mark Meyer has said Carlson bought "just a few pounds" of meth and "sold very little of it."
"The jury may find guilt by association," Meyer said during Monday's hearing.
Said Erickson, "The jury will be able to sort that out."