Roommates reach plea agreement

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Three roommates pleaded guilty to possessing 1 to 8 ounces of marijuana in exchange for having charges of intent to distribute marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia dropped.

Lindy Early, 26, Raymond Valente II, 28, and David Florek, 22, appeared in District Court on Friday to enter a guilty plea and to receive sentencing. The plea prevents a jury trial that was scheduled to begin April 20.

District Judge Michael O'Hara sentenced the three to 18 months of unsupervised probation, 24 hours of community service, a substance-abuse evaluation and $800 in fines and fees. The Class 1 misdemeanor could have come with 60 days in the Routt County Jail.

The roommates, who lived in a condominium on Burgess Creek Road, were arrested July 23 as part of a larger GRAMNET investigation, the Steamboat Springs Police Department reported.

Assistant District Attorney Kerry St. James said a warrant was issued for the three after a man arrested on drug charges informed police the three had a marijuana growing operation in their condo and sold the marijuana they cultivated.

Police said there was evidence that showed there was a marijuana-growing operation at one time in the residence, but it was not active when the arrests were made.

The Grand, Routt and Moffat Narcotic Enforcement Team made the arrests; the Routt County Sheriff's Office and the police department assisted.

Early and Valente were arrested on charges of possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, possession of 1 to 8 ounces of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Florek was arrested for possession of a Schedule I substance, psilocybin mushrooms, possession of less than an ounce of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia.

In court Friday, all charges were dropped against Early and Valente except possession of 1 to 8 ounces of marijuana. Florek pleaded guilty to possession of 1 to 8 ounces of marijuana, and the previous charges against him were dropped.

St. James told O'Hara the charges were dropped after evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of the case. He said he could not determine whether the day of the arrest captured a snapshot of an ongoing marijuana-growing operation or if the three had never cultivated marijuana.

All three had no previous criminal history.

"A drug conviction will follow them for the rest of their lives. We believe that is a significant consequence. We do hope the proverbial light bulb has gone off for them," St. James said.

-- To reach Christine Metz call 871-4229

or e-mail cmetz@steamboatpilot.com

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