Courier staff writer
ALAMOSA — Convicted drug dealer Jennifer Rivera-Lovato pleaded guilty earlier this year to the same offense that sent one of her conspirators to prison for eight years.
But as long as she complies with the terms of her probation, she’ll avoid a similar fate.
Twelfth Judicial District Judge Michael Gonzales on Monday sentenced the Manassa woman to 90 days in jail, and placed her on supervised probation for six years.
Rivera-Lovato stands convicted of distributing a Schedule II controlled substance; she pleaded guilty to an identical Class 3 felony charge in Chaffee County, where her sentencing date in a separate case is still pending.
However, unlike co-defendant Jeffrey Allen Mitchell, Rivera-Lovato’s criminal history prior to her arrest last October is very limited.
While Deputy District Attorney Lara Reincke asked the court to impose a six-year prison sentence, Judge Gonzales said he felt that recommendation was not appropriate, given the defendant’s minimal record.
Nonetheless, he found that the combination of jail time and probation should serve as a deterrent to others.
“I don’t care if you are a mother; I don’t care if you are a father,” he said. “If you sell drugs in this community, there are consequences.”
In Rivera-Lovato’s case, she’s one of more than 15 south-central Colorado residents who sold — or allegedly sold — drugs like oxycodone, Vicodin and Percocet to an undercover law enforcement agent.
That’s especially concerning to the court, the judge said, because those same kinds of drugs end up at local schools and ruin young people’s lives at an early age.
“I take offense to that,” he said. “Wake up. That’s what’s happening with these types of drugs.”
As a mother, he said, she should be embarrassed.
“Do you think you’re sending (your children) the right message?” he asked.
The district attorney’s office initially charged Rivera-Lovato with 12 additional offenses, including seven counts of distributing a Schedule II controlled substance, two counts each of conspiracy and misdemeanor child abuse and one count of “special offender.”
According to a Colorado Bureau of Investigation report, the 32-year-old woman sold more than $7,150 in oxycodone pills to an undercover agent, along with 90 Vicodin pills, over a three-month period in 2012. On two of those occasions, Rivera-Lovato’s daughters were present.
In addition to those sales, Rivera-Lovato “kind of” acted as a conduit who introduced the agent to many of her conspirators, according to Reincke.
Deputy Public Defender Amanda Hopkins told the court that Rivera-Lovato felt she’d reached the end of the line when she acted as she did.
According to Hopkins, Rivera-Lovato does not receive any financial help from her ex-husband to support their children. The defendant is also completely disabled, and she could not perform any other kind of work, Hopkins said.
“There were reasons why this made up the bulk of her income — not because she chose not to work,” she said.
Judge Gonzales, however, did not accept that explanation of Rivera-Lovato’s actions.
“There’s no excuse for what you did for money,” he told her. “Absolutely none. Absolutely none.”
He ultimately imposed a $5,000 fine, and suspended all but $500 of that amount.
Rivera-Lovato was also ordered to perform 100 hours of useful public service, to pay various court costs and to undergo evaluations for substance abuse and mental health. Under the terms of her sentence, she must also submit to random drug tests.
If she fails to comply with any terms of her probation, the judge warned her that he will send her to prison.