GLENWOOD SPRINGS — A man who had been accused by police of being the “kingpin” of a Carbondale-based drug ring that led to more than a dozen arrests last December, pleaded guilty Thursday to a lesser charge of attempted distribution of drugs.
Evance Grandberry, 23, of Carbondale, pleaded guilty before District Judge Denise Lynch to the attempt charge. He also admitted to violating his probation terms from a 2009 court case.
The plea could result in a prison sentence of between two and six years for each count, or up to 12 years if the judge decides there were aggravating circumstances. Grandberry could also be fined up to $500,000 on both counts.
Sentencing in the case was set for Dec. 19.
Two different cases against Grandberry appeared in early September to be headed to trial, after his defense attorney, Kathy Goudy, said plea negotiations with the district attorney had reached a “dead end.”
Thursday’s hearing had been intended to set trial dates in those cases. Instead, the plea deal involving the new attempt count was announced.
In accepting the plea, Grandberry admitted to “taking a substantial step toward” dealing drugs to undercover agents on May 4, 2012.
Grandberry was being tried in three different cases stemming from allegations that he was a supplier to a number of small-time drug dealers in the mid-valley area.
He was among 14 people arrested on Dec. 12 as part of a mass roundup carried out by some 40 police officers and agents of the Two Rivers Drug Enforcement Team (TRIDENT) in Basalt, Carbondale, Glenwood Springs and New Castle.
According to a statement issued by TRIDENT at the time of the arrests, the nine-month investigation involved undercover agents who bought cocaine, ecstasy/MDMA, psilocybin mushrooms, marijuana and prescription drugs, as well as two firearms, an assault rifle and a .38-caliber pistol.
The amounts of drugs involved were “predominantly user quantities,” according to the police statement.
A second case against Grandberry involved a search of his home that allegedly turned up a quantity of prescription drugs, which police claimed were being sold on the streets.
However, Goudy said after a Sept. 4 court hearing that Grandberry had a prescription for the drugs in question, and that she was confident that case would be dismissed.
The Grandberry case also became intertwined with another, subsequent arrest of 25 alleged drug dealers around the Western Slope in April and May of this year, according to authorities.
As part of that four-month investigation, Aurelio Aguilar, 42, of Carbondale was arrested on April 25 in Mesa County, allegedly “heading for Las Vegas with $95,000 in cash to buy drugs,” Carbondale Police Chief Gene Schilling said at that time.
Grandberry remains free on $30,000 bond while awaiting his Dec. 19 sentencing.