A 25-year-old Hailey woman, an illegal immigrant from Mexico who has been living in the United States for about eight years, was sentenced Wednesday to three years in prison, a mandatory minimum sentence required in Idaho for trafficking in methamphetamine.
Hailey attorney Keith Roark, assigned as public defender for Lilia Carrillo-Duenas, called the sentence “horrific.” In an interview after the court hearing, Roark said the sentence is unjust and is the fault of the “legion of farmers” that meets annually in Boise and passed the drug trafficking laws in an unsuccessful attempt to curb the use of illegal drugs.
“The idea to give the prosecutor the power to tie a judge’s hand is unconscionable,” Roark said. “The whole system is screwed up.”
During the hearing, Blaine County 5th District Court Judge Robert J. Elgee acknowledged that he had no choice in the sentence for Carrillo-Duenas, except to sentence her to an even longer prison stay, something neither he nor the prosecution wanted to do.
“The law makes it impossible for me to change what the law requires,” Elgee told Carrillo-Duenas, who required the assistance of a Spanish-speaking court interpreter so that she could understand the proceedings.
“I don’t know any reason to extend the sentence because she’ll be deported when it is through,” said Blaine County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Matt Fredback. “Because of the amount, there’s not a whole lot to talk about here.”
Carrillo-Duenas pleaded guilty in February to trafficking in methamphetamine for possessing 39.9 grams of the drug when arrested by Hailey police in October 2013. She was convicted of a subsection of the trafficking statute, which provides for a mandatory minimum three-year prison sentence for trafficking more than 28 grams but less than 200 grams of the drug. Trafficking larger amounts of methamphetamine, under Idaho law, requires even a longer prison sentence.
In exchange for her guilty plea to trafficking, a second felony charge against her, distribution of marijuana, was dismissed.
Carrillo-Duenas was only found in possession of the drug when her home at the Sunnyside apartments in southeast Hailey was searched by police. However, according to a Hailey police report, also found and confiscated were a small digital scale and small Ziploc baggies, items typically used for weighing and packaging the drug. The trafficking charge resulted from evidence that Carrillo-Duenas had been selling the drug.
The amount of methamphetamine found, 39.9 grams, is the equivalent of 1.4 ounces. That much methamphetamine has a street value of about $4,000.
Elgee gave Carrillo-Duenas credit for about seven months already spent in the Blaine County jail. He also fined her $10,000, which is also a mandatory requirement under the trafficking statute, and ordered her to pay $600 in restitution.
During sentencing, Roark said his client has been given little chance in life, having been forced into entering the United States by her family. He said she has five children, all of them living in the United States, one in Blaine County and four in California, and likely will never be able to see them again. At least three of them, he said, are U.S. citizens.
After the hearing, Roark explained how Carrillo-Duenas had been forced from Mexico by her family.
“Her family sent her here,” he said. “They hired a coyote and saw to it she was brought here. It might have something to do with the fact that she was raped by an uncle when she was 10 years old and had children at age 14 and age 16. She was kicked around by her family and she’s been beat up by every boyfriend she ever had.”
Roark said Carrillo-Duenas was actually helping her boyfriend in selling the drugs. He acknowledged that she committed a crime but said the three-year prison sentence was not in the interest of justice.
“She hasn’t had much chance in life,” Roark said. “It’s a tragedy. Now, for her to be in a position to be with her own children, she has to commit another felony.”
Roark was referring to federal law that makes it a new felony for someone convicted of a felony and then deported to re-enter the United States.