Jeffrey Allen Mitchell
Courier staff writer
ALAMOSA — A convicted drug trafficker apologized on Tuesday for his actions, but his words could not make up for the fact that he committed an “extraordinary risk” crime.
Jeffrey Allen Mitchell pleaded guilty in March to one count of distributing a Schedule II controlled substance, and on May 7, Twelfth Judicial District Judge Pattie Swift sentenced him to eight years in state prison.
Deputy District Attorney Mark Loy pushed for an even longer term of nine years, telling the court that Mitchell sold drugs again and again without any real consideration of the harm his actions caused.
Loy’s office originally charged the 31-year-old man with eight additional felony counts for his role in an alleged prescription drug ring that reached from Conejos County to Salida and Cañon City. In exchange for Mitchell’s plea, though, it subsequently dismissed those charges.
Deputy Public Defender Amanda Hopkins had asked the judge to treat Mitchell the same way that the court previously treated his co-defendants, including Stella Ann Schimpf and Pamela Lynne Richardson. She noted that he has taken responsibility for his actions, and she also touted his active involvement with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Yet even though Richardson received a deferred sentence on an identical charge, while Schimpf was sentenced to 90 days in jail with credit for time served, Judge Swift found that there are differences between the cases.
For one thing, Mitchell has two prior felony convictions on his record. According to the Kansas Department of Corrections, he was convicted of criminal damage to property and burglary of a building used as a dwelling.
Hopkins alleged that the district attorney’s office failed to present the court with a certified record of Mitchell’s convictions. If it had, she said, the court would see that one of those convictions would have amounted to a Class 2 misdemeanor, at best, in Colorado.
But Judge Swift said that evidence of the felony classifications in Kansas cannot be disputed.
“The records are the records,” she said. “I don’t have any question in my mind that (Mitchell was) convicted of two felonies in Kansas.”
Apart from Mitchell’s criminal history, the judge said she is also concerned about the fact that he sold drugs in front of his young children.
Authorities arrested Mitchell, Schimpf, Richardson and 12 other people during an October 2012 crackdown on an alleged drug ring that distributed oxycodone, Percocet, methamphetamine and Ecstasy across south-central Colorado.
According to court records, Schimpf arranged the first meeting between Mitchell and an undercover Colorado Bureau of Investigation agent.
On Aug. 28, 2012, the agent handed Mitchell $1,000 for 60 oxycodone pills that had been prepackaged in plastic baggies. An unidentified doctor prescribed the pills to Mitchell’s wife, Hollye.
Just over a week later, the agent made arrangements with Hollye Mitchell to purchase another 75 oxycodone pills from her husband for $1,400. (Jeffrey Mitchell ultimately pleaded guilty to a charge that arose from the second incident.)
The agent met face to face with Hollye Mitchell during another transaction last September, and she went on to sell him another $4,000 worth of the painkilling narcotics. That particular sale occurred within 1,000 feet of Ortega Middle School and a public housing project, and both of the Mitchells’ infant children were present at the time.
Jeffrey Mitchell said Tuesday that the first of his many goals moving forward is to be a better example to his kids.
In the months since his arrest, he has completed half of a 12-step program sponsored by the LDS Church, and he said he would like the opportunity to complete it. He said he also hopes to speak with teenagers and others about the negative impacts that drugs can have on their lives.
“My final plea to the court and to the community is to please allow me the chance to set everything right again,” he said.
Mitchell said he could guarantee the court and the community that he will never get into trouble again; he later added that he likes to help people.
“I’m not a bad person,” he said. “Quite the opposite.”
Be that as it may, Judge Swift found that his actions, or the actions of others like him, have affected the community.
“You’re making available to people drugs that they wouldn’t otherwise have,” she said, noting that she sees many cases in which drug abuse is a factor.
The judge ultimately imposed a mandatory parole term of five years, and ordered Mitchell to pay a $3,000 surcharge for drug offenders. She then remanded him back to the sheriff’s office for transportation to the Colorado Department of Corrections.
Mitchell’s wife is scheduled to be back in court on June 5 for sentencing.
She originally faced equally serious charges of distributing a controlled substance. But under a deal with the district attorney’s office, she pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of attempted distribution.
Hollye Mitchell now faces a presumptive sentence of two to eight years in state prison, or one to 16 years under extraordinary circumstances.
However, if the district attorney’s office agrees to recommend probation instead of prison, Judge Swift has the option to impose a jail sentence of up to 90 days.