ST. GEORGE — A 5th District Court judge sentenced 28-year-old Rodrigo Rojas-Ibarra to serve time in county jail, following a 19-pound methamphetamine seizure in June.
Ibarra, of South Jordan, appeared before District Judge Keith C. Barnes for sentencing on three charges, including second-degree felony possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance and misdemeanor possession of paraphernalia, as well as a traffic infraction.
The charges were filed in connection with a traffic stop on northbound Interstate 15 near mile marker 12 on June 10, when a Washington City Police officer noticed a tail light that wasn’t working properly.
During a search of the car a short while later, officers found 19 pounds of suspected methamphetamine concealed in a large speaker box located in the trunk of the car.
The meth was valued at more than $340,000.
The defendant pleaded guilty to the charges during a hearing held in October, at which point a presentence report was ordered by the court.
During Thursday’s hearing, Washington County Prosecutor Jim Weeks recommended that Ibarra be sentenced to serve a year in jail, adding that the state would also recommend the defendant be deported immediately after his release, and went on to say with the current immigration issues, that may not be the case.
In the event the defendant remains in the U.S., Weeks recommended the defendant participate in substance abuse treatment. If Ibarra remains in Utah, then he should be placed on bench probation for 48 months, Weeks said. Outside of the state, Ibarra would still need to be supervised upon his release.
Bruce Nelson, Ibarra’s defense attorney, stated that both sides agreed that his client should be released to immigration upon the completion of his sentence.
Nelson said a year in jail would be a sufficient punishment for the charges, without having the added burden of being ordered to complete a lengthy probationary period.
Ibarra had a clean criminal record prior to this case, Nelson said, adding the defendant became involved with the wrong group of people, which led to the criminal activity that resulted in the charges. He also said his client now recognizes the whole cause-and-effect scenario that affected his decision-making process.
The attorney also asked that his client be given credit for time served.
Ibarra also spoke during the hearing. He said he recognizes the mistakes he made and explained the hardships he has faced while in custody, largely due to the weight of the situation and the loss he has experienced from not being there for his family, including the birth of his second child, as well as his absence during a time when his parents are very ill.
He also apologized to the court, saying he was depressed during the hearing and that he would follow the recommendations as outlined by his attorney.
The judge reminded Ibarra that he could have spent up to 10 years in a federal penitentiary, considering the amount of meth recovered at the time of his arrest, had the defendant faced an indictment in federal court.
Barnes then ordered Ibarra serve one year in jail and placed him on three years’ probation supervised by Adult Probation and Parole upon his release. He also ordered him to be monitored by Adult Probation and Parole.
The defendant will serve his time in the Washington County Purgatory Correctional Facility, where he has been incarcerated since his arrest on June 19. The court also granted credit for time served, but denied the defense’s request for good time.
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