Man pleads guilty to selling cocaine

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The 25-year-old Steamboat Springs man accused of selling cocaine from his home pleaded guilty to drug-distribution charges in Routt County District Court on Thursday.

Michael Sherrod Saunders accepted a plea offer instead of facing the possible 200-year prison term if convicted of the charges he initially faced.

By pleading guilty to the unlawful distribution of a controlled substance, a Class 3 felony, other charges were dismissed.

As a stipulation of the plea, Saunders will spend no more than 12 years in prison.

Saunders was arrested in July by Grand, Routt and Moffat Narcotics Enforcement Team officers who said they had been watching him selling drugs from his home.

Saunders faces fines of as much as $750,000 and a five-year parole when he is released from prison.

Saunders told District Judge Michael O'Hara he was extremely dissatisfied with the legal representation he received from his former attorney, public defender Trevor McFee.

Saunders said two previous plea bargains had been offered in his case and that McFee never made him aware of them.

O'Hara told Saunders that by accepting this plea, he could not appeal anything that happened previously in his case.

Saunders' current attorney, Larry Combs, assured O'Hara that Saunders was aware of that and still wanted to continue with the plea he was offered.

Combs also asked O'Hara to consider reducing Saunders' $250,000 bond because Saunders had pleaded guilty and would like to begin drug treatment and rehabilitation programs.

O'Hara denied the request, saying that, if released, Saunders could easily leave the county.

"I can't imagine any greater flight issue. The ordinary person would be tempted not to appear in court, especially someone who is facing such a lengthy prison sentence," he said.

Saunders will be sentenced at 2 p.m. Jan. 13.

-- To reach Alexis DeLaCruz, call 871-4234

or e-mail adelacruz@steamboatpilot.com

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