'It cost me everything I had'

Man sentenced to 12 years in prison for selling cocaine

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— Michael Sherrod Saunders was sentenced Friday to 12 years in prison and five years mandatory parole after pleading guilty to selling cocaine from his home.

Saunders, 25, who entered the plea as part of an agreement with prosecutors, was given a 190-day credit for time spent in the Routt County Jail since July.

A secondary case against Saunders was dismissed as part of the plea agreement. In that case, Saunders was charged with smuggling a pack of cigarettes into the county jail.

Greater Routt and Moffat Narcotics Enforcement Team officers arrested Saunders in July after watching him sell drugs from his home.

District Judge Michael O'Hara sentenced Saunders to 12 years though a pre-sentence investigation recommended he serve four to six years on the Class 3 felony drug-distribution charge, said his attorney, Larry Combs.

Pre-sentence investigations are prepared by the judicial district's probation office to help judges become familiar with cases. Probation officials often suggest sentences based on research about defendants.

Combs said Saunders knew getting the full 12 years was a possibility when he entered the guilty plea in November.

"Twelve years is a high price to pay for a coke addiction," Combs said.

Saunders read a statement to the court before his sentencing in which he apologized for his actions, Combs said.

"I know that in July my life was out of control with my coke use," he wrote. "It has cost me everything I had. I'm sincerely sorry for hurting so many people and for my selfishness. I feel terrible for what I did and the pain I caused."

Saunders told the court he would rather have gone to drug treatment than prison, but that he intended to turn his life around, Combs said.

"I will make every effort to make things right and recover as much of my life as possible," he wrote. I've lost everything -- my career, my culinary education and my freedom."

Combs said he intended to file a motion for post-conviction release on Saunder's behalf because his client was unable to take advantage of two previous plea offers.

Saunders fired public defender Trevor McFee after he found out the District Attorney's Office had made two separate plea offers -- one that entailed pleading guilty to a cocaine possession charge and not a distribution charge, Combs said.

Saunder's might be released from prison sooner if Combs' motion is successful.

"We'll go from here," Combs said.

Routt County Jail officials said Saunders was transported to a holding center where he will stay until he's taken to the Colorado Department of Corrections.

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