A judge who sentenced a habitual offender yesterday to the maximum of five years in prison for illegal possession of methamphetamine or “ice” had some choice words, not for the defendant but for the Office of the Attorney General.
Superior Court Associate Judge Joseph N. Camacho pointed out that the OAG appears to have a “conflicting message” about “ice.”
In the case of John Richard Palacios Deleon Guerrero, Camacho said the defendant was originally charged with eight counts, for a possible consecutive sentence of 100 years. Yet the OAG later amended that to only one count as part of a plea deal with Deleon Guerrero.
That basically removed 95 years of a possible consecutive sentence, he said.
To put it another way, Camacho said, the deal is a 95-percent “discount” of the possible maximum consecutive sentence.
Camacho said it is absolutely clear that Deleon Guerrero is being punished not because he is a drug addict, but due to his conviction for possession of “ice.”
Deleon Guerrero admits that he uses “ice” every waking moment, and that the only time he does not use the drug is when he is asleep.
Deleon Guerrero, 41, also known as Massi and or Penny, will serve his five-year sentence without the possibility of parole. He was given credit for time served and was ordered to pay the mandatory $2,000 fine.
The judge said a sentence of five years in prison is appropriate as Deleon Guerrero has prior convictions, including violent crimes, drug crimes and property crimes.
Camacho noted that Deleon Guerrero has one federal conviction and four CNMI prior criminal convictions.
In addition to this case, the defendant is awaiting sentencing in a separate criminal case for illegal possession of a controlled substance.
Assistant attorney general Chester Hinds, counsel for the government, had recommended a prison sentence of five years. Defense lawyer Steven Pixley recommended two years, submitting in court four letters from Deleon Guerrero’s mother, sisters and brother-in-law, asking for a lenient sentence.
Camacho said OAG asked the court to take a hard stance against crimes involving “ice,” stating in writing that “meth addiction is a plague in this community affecting everyone.”
Yet in Deleon Guerrero’s case, Camacho said, the OAG amended the eight charges last Dec. 28 to only one count of possession of a controlled substance, which carries a possible sentence of five years imprisonment, and removing the “ice” trafficking and illegal firearms charges.
Camacho said there is nothing on record that Deleon Guerrero cooperated to get other drug dealers, or that he has a mental illness or other mitigating factors.
The plea agreement in this case, Camacho said, is particularly concerning as it involves both illegal drugs and illegal firearms, and that Deleon Guerrero is a repeat offender with prior convictions in federal and CNMI courts.
The judge added that in the past three years, the OAG has not prosecuted any drug dealers with “ice” trafficking. Instead, all drug trafficking arrests have resulted in plea bargains for the much lesser offense of possession.
In this case, according to court records, during a buy-operation, the CNMI Drug Enforcement Task Force’s “confidential source” managed to buy .70 gross grams of “ice” worth $120 from Deleon Guerrero outside his home in Lower Miha in Garapan on Aug. 18, 2016. It was Deleon Guerrero’s alleged drug associate who handed the “ice” to the “confidential source.”
In May 2015, Deleon Guerrero pleaded guilty to illegal possession of a controlled substance and was slapped with a one-year prison sentence. In that case, he reportedly engaged police officers in a car chase and threw away a small bag of “ice.”
In February 2006, federal agents arrested Deleon Guerrero for conspiracy to receive and possess stolen mail; and for possession of stolen mail. He served seven months in prison in that case.
In two cases in 2002 for assault and battery and theft, he served a suspended sentence, meaning no prison term.
In consolidated two cases in 2005 and 2006 for burglary and theft, he served 10 months in prison.
Deleon Guerrero is awaiting sentencing in a 2016 case for illegal possession of a controlled substance.