Attorneys speak out on bust in Glenwood Springs
GLENWOOD SPRINGS – Defense attorneys and defendants have said many of the 30 suspects in an alleged mid-level drug trafficking organization were unfairly grouped together and had little or no connection.Some believe the only thing at all linking the cases together is a confidential informant who conducted controlled drug purchases for the Two Rivers Drug Enforcement Team.One suspect has said he has nothing to do with any of the others and threatened to sue local media and the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office.”It appears to me that this is not some monolithic drug ring that has any strong connection from one case to another and it has been overstated for whatever purpose by the police side of this and the press,” said defense attorney Tom Silverman, who’s representing John Shertz and may take on some of the other suspects. “I’m wondering if TRIDENT has some motivation to try and justify their money that they get to do their work and to try to portray this in a way that shows there is a major problem that they’re successfully dealing with.”Defense attorney Bill Schubert said, “My take on it is so far the only thing I’ve seen in common is there is a confidential informant they used to do the controlled buys, but other than that I’m not sure there’s any real network or structure. Just because the confidential informant knows several people doesn’t mean that those several people are necessarily connected.”Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario and 9th Judicial District Attorney Martin Beeson didn’t return phone messages Friday.TRIDENT and the Drug Enforcement Administration arrested 30 people, mostly April 16 and 17. Some were arrested months earlier. In a press release sent out after media inquiries about the arrests, TRIDENT said the arrests concluded an investigation started last fall into one of the largest drug organizations in the history of Colorado’s Western Slope. TRIDENT seized over 65 pounds of marijuana, nine pounds of cocaine, a pound of methamphetamines, ounces of hallucinogenic mushrooms and doses of ecstasy, LSD and prescription medications.TRIDENT said the organization grouped dealers into tiers grading dealers on how much they sold and contacts with police or arrests.Public defender Tina Fang, who’s representing a number of the suspects, couldn’t be reached Friday. But she said previously that to think the suspects are part of a grand conspiracy or vast drug ring is “ludicrous,” according to a media account. She accused prosecutors of charging defendants with multiple crimes for a single alleged action.Some attorneys thought the wide variety of drugs and suspects being charged for only one or a couple of alleged transactions suggest something other than an organized drug ring.Silverman said his client, John Shertz, was accused of only one drug transaction and had no prior drug charges.”He’s a guy who never had other charges and who you’re saying on one occasion did something, and then you’re saying he’s connected to 30 people he probably doesn’t even know,” Silverman said. “You didn’t exactly get the kingpin here.”He said that in major drug cases, undercover agents follow drug distributors until patterns of repeated drug sales emerges.Silverman sees this incident as a local manifestation of a failed national drug policy that other countries look to as an example of what not to do.Defense attorney Ted Hess also believes many suspects were unfairly grouped together by law enforcement. He acknowledged he doesn’t yet have all the information TRIDENT has, but said, “I think that this is clearly an exercise in self-aggrandizement by TRIDENT and (Garfield County) Sheriff Lou Vallario.”Anna Witzil, the daughter of one suspect, said, “I think people need to understand that the people behind bars in this whole drug bust are not as bad as they’re being depicted.”She said her family has been in the area 45 years and has suffered because of the publicity surrounding the arrests. She said people shouldn’t assume that suspects’ entire families are involved in drugs just because one family member was arrested.Contact Pete Fowler: email@example.comPost Independent, Glenwood Springs Colorado CO
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