A native of South America who in July was convicted by a Pitkin County jury of felony cocaine possession was sentenced Monday.
Fernando A. Fuentes-Silva, 30, of Carbondale, received two years of supervised probation. But in handing down the sentence, District Judge Gail Nichols pointed out that the conviction makes Fuentes-Silva a likely candidate for deportation.
“Your best chances with immigration (officials) are going to be full compliance with probation,” Nichols said.
The jury returned the guilty verdict on July 29 in a trial lasting less than two days. At the time, the case against Fuentes-Silva was nearly two years old: He was arrested near a bike path outside the Truscott Place apartments in the early hours of Sept. 6, 2012, accused of holding more than 4 grams of cocaine contained in separate plastic packages.
Felony prosecutor Andrea Bryan asked for 30 days of jail time in addition to probation. She said it was apparent that Furentes-Silva felt sorry for himself but questioned whether he had accepted full responsibility for the infraction. Fuentes tested positive for cocaine during a Probation Office evaluation for his pre-sentencing report, but he claims the test result was in error and that he has not used cocaine since the morning of his arrest.
Nichols declined to add jail time to his sentence, citing the likelihood of his deportation.
“I see no reason for jail,” the judge said.
Defense attorney Beth Krulewitch described Fuentes-Silva as a hardworking man with two jobs who was convicted of a victimless crime. She said he is not a drug dealer — the cocaine was for personal use, and he was honest and helpful when questioned by Aspen police before and after the arrest.
The conviction has taken a toll on his family in the Roaring Fork Valley, Krulewitch said.
“He has family here who love him and friends here he cares about,” she said. “He feels terrible and is sorry for what he has done.”
Deportation would be a penalty worse than any sentence the judge could impose, Krulewitch added.
While Nichols pointed out the strong chance that Fuentes-Silva will be picked up by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials, she also reminded him to comply with all probation stipulations — including random tests for drug and alcohol use — in the event that he obtains release.
According to court documents, Fuentes-Silva was prepared to plead guilty and receive a disposition in late 2012, but he later switched attorneys and changed his plea to not guilty when he learned that a conviction could result in deportation.