Steamboat Springs Rather than taking his chances at trial, a former Steamboat Springs resident on Wednesday pleaded guilty to distributing cocaine and will serve a minimum of four years in prison.
Trevor R. Rice, 28, was arrested in March after police said he sold 3 ounces of cocaine to a person working with the All Crimes Enforcement Team drug task force. The investigation began after a confidential source had a December meeting with Rice. A controlled buy took place in January using a post office box at the downtown post office.
The Routt County District Attorney’s Office charged Rice with three Class 3 felonies, and he was scheduled to go to trial Oct. 28.
Rice’s attorney, Larry Combs, said he had been in negotiations with former Chief Deputy District Attorney Rusty Prindle about a plea deal that would have involved Rice avoiding prison and instead serving probation. Combs said District Attorney Brett Barkey never signed off on the plea deal, and the discussions about Rice serving only probation stopped when Prindle unexpectedly left the District Attorney’s Office on Oct. 1.
“I met with Mr. Barkey, and he said, ‘Drug dealers go to prison, period,’” Combs said.
Combs said the Rice case is an example of a tougher attitude coming from the District Attorney’s Office.
“We’re in a different ball game now,” Combs said. “After 40 years (of being an attorney) I’ve been in this ball game before.”
Last week, Barkey said going forward, defense attorneys generally would not be as satisfied with plea deals as they have been in the past.
Barkey issued a news release after Rice’s guilty plea.
“We wanted to send a strong message that when you distribute dangerous drugs in this community, the consequences are severe,” Barkey said. “The facts of the case warrant a prison sentence, and that is what Mr. Rice will receive.”
If a jury would have found Rice guilty of all three charges, Combs said Rice would have faced a mandatory 12 years in prison.
Combs said he was disappointed Rice was not offered a plea deal calling for probation. Rice has no prior felonies, and he is an honor student at Metropolitan State University of Denver, Combs said.
“You’ve got to look at the individual not the charges,” Combs said. “I think he would have been successful at probation.”
Rice was visibly upset as Judge Shelley Hill scheduled sentencing for 1 p.m. Jan. 17.
“This is just a disaster for him,” Combs said.
Two other cases are pending related to ACET’s investigation of Rice.
Margie “Maggie” A. Levin, 27, was booked into Routt County Jail on April 5 on suspicion of conspiring to sell cocaine. ACET officials think Rice was Levin’s supplier, according to Levin’s arrest warrant. She also appeared in court Wednesday by telephone, and it was disclosed that she has been offered a plea deal from the District Attorney’s Office that calls for prison time.
Levin next is due to appear in court at 1 p.m. Nov. 21. She has been charged with conspiring to sell cocaine, a Class 3 felony, and possession of cocaine, a Class 4 felony.
The third person charged was Levin’s boyfriend. He was arrested March 8. The man was charged with a single count of unlawful distribution, manufacturing, dispensing, sale or possession of a Schedule 2 controlled substance, a Class 3 felony. The man is due back in court at 1 p.m. Oct. 23.
To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247 or email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com
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