Man held on coke charges

Saunders tells judge he is 'in the dark' about arrest

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A 25-year-old Steamboat Springs man was jailed on a $250,000 bond after he was arrested on suspicion of distributing cocaine.

Michael Sherrod Saunders was arrested July 8 and then charged in court on Monday with distribution of a Schedule 2 controlled substance, a Class 3 felony. The distribution reportedly took place on July 6.

The charge can result in four to 12 years in the Colorado Department of Corrections and a fine of as much as $750,000.

When Saunders appeared in court on Monday for his advisement, he said he thought he had been left "in the dark" as to why he was arrested.

"Your honor, I'm really confused," Saunders said, adding that he didn't understand why he had been charged. Saunders also wanted to know to whom he is accused of selling cocaine.

Routt County Judge James Garrecht said that the warrant for Saunders' arrest was sealed because it involved a confidential informant.

The Grand, Routt and Moffat Narcotics Enforcement Team made the arrest.

A GRAMNET official who could not be named said Monday that GRAMNET obtained a warrant for Saunders' arrest and to search his residence based on an ongoing investigation that Saunders was distributing cocaine.

The warrants were sealed to protect the integrity of the case, the GRAMNET official said.

Typically, warrants are open, but in rare instances they can be sealed by the judge with valid reasons, the official said. He could not give details about those reasons.

In court, Saunders said law enforcement officials picked him up while he was riding his bike late last week, but that he did not understand why he was being arrested.

"I'm kind of confused as to what's going on here," he said on Monday.

Saunders said that, while in jail, he has been questioned by law enforcement officials about two other cases.

Garrecht said those other cases are unrelated to the matter at hand. Garrecht set the case for a status review at 1 p.m. July 20.

Assistant District Attorney Kerry St. James asked Garrecht to retain Saunders' $250,000 bond, and Saunders later asked whether his bond could be reduced.

Garrecht said Saunders could file a motion to ask for such a bond reduction, but that because of "victim safety issues," the bond would be left as it is. Those concerns could not be detailed as Saunders' warrant is sealed.

The GRAMNET official said the high bond was because of other factors in the case but could not say what those factors are.

Saunders also said he planned to apply for a public defender.

Saunders was contacted by law enforcement July 8 while he was riding his bike, the GRAMNET official said. He was then taken into custody. He was riding his bike with Ryan William Wheaton, 23, of Wheaton, Ill., who was detained because he is on probation.

The house where Saunders and another Steamboat Springs man, Grey Edward Schuhmacher, 25, live then was searched. The GRAMNET official said details could not be given about what was found at the residence. He could confirm that officers found marijuana growing at the men's residence in the 200 block of Hill Street, and that Schuhmacher was arrested on charges of cultivating marijuana.

Wheaton was released after probation officials were notified, the official said. He then was arrested later that day on suspicion of violating probation.

-- To reach Susan Cunningham, call 871-4203 or e-mail scunningham@steamboatpilot.com

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