Drug case ruled mistrial

Jury fails to reach agreement after two hours of deliberaton

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— A mistrial was declared Fri--day in the trial of a Steamboat Springs man on drug charges.

District Judge Michael O'Hara called for a mistrial at about 5:30 p.m. after the jury deliberated for two hours and could not reach a unanimous decision. On trial was 42-year-old Jesus Alvarez-Frias, who is accused of selling methamphetamine during an undercover operation in June.

Alvarez-Frias was arrested after police said he sold drugs to an informant hired by the Grand Routt and Moffat Narcotics Enforcement Team.

Also accused in the case was 23-year-old Cosme Orlando Lopez of Steamboat Spr--ings. Lopez was convicted of selling meth during a trial in February.

During Alvarez-Frias' trial, the jury heard testimony from the confidential informant and from former GRAMNET officer Matt Harmon. The witnesses said that although Alvarez-Frias did not take the informant's money or hand him the drugs during the transaction, Alvarez-Frias initiated the sale and was an accomplice.

During closing arguments Friday, Alvarez-Frias' court-appointed attorney, Ron Smith, argued that Deputy District Attorney Tammy Jenson did not have any physical evidence tying Alvarez-Frias to the crime.

Smith argued that Harmon and the confidential informant lied during Lopez's trial in February, affecting Alvarez-Frias' trial.

Smith said the confidential informant was a criminal, who, during his work for GRAMNET, stole a credit card and used it to purchase stereo speakers and gasoline.

Smith said Harmon lied about how much money he paid the confidential informant. Harmon testified during Lopez's trial that the informant had been paid $400 for his work. After receiving Drug Enforcement Administration documents, Smith found that the informant had been paid $900.

Jenson rebutted, saying Har--mon did not intentionally make a misstatement during his testimony, and that after he obtained the DEA documents enumerating the informant's pay, that Harmon immediately acknowledged the misinformation.

Jenson said criminal behavior is not uncharacteristic of an undercover drug informant. Jenson said informants are not "rabbis, priests, lawyers or judges."

Jenson and Smith declined comment about the case late Friday afternoon. Jenson said the case will be rescheduled at a hearing at 9 a.m. Friday.

-- To reach Alexis DeLaCruz, call 871-4234

or e-mail adelacruz@steamboatpilot.com

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