Man Sentenced to Prison for Cocaine Possession in Albany County
A foreign national will serve a prison term and be deported after pleading guilty in July to a charge of cocaine possession.
Albany County District Court Judge Jeffrey Donnell on Tuesday ordered 21-year-old Robin Zuniga-Acosta to serve a three- to six-year prison term.
Zuniga-Acosta was arrested May 10 after a Wyoming Highway Patrol trooper stopped a grey Honda Civic for speeding on U.S. 287.
Court documents say Zuniga-Acosta presented a Mexican identification card that did not belong to him.
Troopers searched the vehicle after a K-9 alerted to the presence of a controlled substance. The search turned up a small bag of marijuana in the gas cap door, a fist-sized bag of cocaine weighing 109 grams, $2,250 in cash as well as seven cell phones.
Defense attorney David Korman on Tuesday requested a sentence of supervised probation or a split sentence for his client, saying Zuniga-Acosta will be deported after serving his sentence.
Korman argued against imprisonment, saying it would cost Wyoming taxpayers $160 each day to keep Zuniga-Acosta in prison.
"Are we serving the citizens of Wyoming by incarcerating the defendant?" Korman asked.
"If he were a citizen, he'd go to prison," Donnell said. "Why should I send him home for doing something a citizen would go to prison for?"
Donnell went on to question the sort of message such a sentence would send, saying supervised probation or time in the county detention center would do little to deter others from committing similar crimes.
Korman argued the split sentence would serve both purposes by providing a cheaper alternative to prison that would still put Zuniga-Acosta behind bars.
Donnell said Korman raised an interesting point, but he said Zuniga-Acosta needed a sentence that fits the crime.
"The people of Wyoming, in my opinion, are served best by imposing the appropriate punishment," Donnell said. "It is not this court's job to worry about what that costs."
"Those that choose to smuggle drugs," Donnell continued, "can and should go to prison."
Donnell further explained that probation was inappropriate for a number of reasons, not the least of which was the fact that Zuniga-Acosta would be immediately deported if placed on probation.
Prosecutor Kurt Britzius said state supervision while Zuniga-Acosta was in another country was simply impractical.
"Mr. Zuniga-Acosta violated our laws," Britzius told the court. "There should be some ramifications rather than simply being sent back home."