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Cortez man sentenced for drug possession with intent to distribute

Law enforcement and defendant’s supporters testified at sentencing hearing

A Cortez man was sentenced Thursday at the Montezuma County Combined Courts to six years in the Department of Corrections for heroin possession with intent to distribute.

Christopher Allen Gonzales, 24, was arrested Feb. 17 by the Montezuma-Cortez Narcotics Investigation Team at a Cortez car wash for a parole violation.

During a search of Gonzales, officers discovered 21 grams of heroin.

In an agreement with the 22nd Judicial District Attorney’s Office, Gonzales pleaded guilty to drug possession with intent to distribute, a Class 3 felony. Prosecution recommended a jail sentence of four years. Law enforcement requested a longer jail sentence.

Chief District Court Judge Doug Walker agreed with law enforcement officers and handed down a six-year prison sentence.

Walker cited Gonzales’ conviction on heroin possession with intent to distribute, his criminal history, and lack of commitment to previous drug treatment services, for the longer sentence.

The testimony by friends and family make it “clear Mr. Gonzales can be a good person,” Walker said, adding that good decisions “here on out” will bring that person back.

In a statement, Gonzales said he has made mistakes, and does not want “to minimize the seriousness” of the offense. He said medical treatment is helping with his addiction and he “seeks recovery.”

Victor Galarza, a detective with the Montezuma-Cortez Narcotics Investigation Team, testified that the drug crime and Gonzales’ criminal history warrant the maximum sentence.

Galarza said the amount of heroin Gonzales possessed represented a risk to the community and is a “poison that destroys lives and families.” He said drug distribution “profits from those addicted” and that the 21 grams of heroin could have been distributed onto the street increasing the risk of overdoses.

During the sentencing hearing, family and friends of Gonzales asked for leniency and drug treatment services.

Gonzales’ mother testified that her son has long struggled with drug addiction, and instead of prison, he needs long-term rehabilitation at an in-patient facility so he can learn the tools to “stay straight.”

A friend testified to Gonzales’ good and generous side, and the contrasting negative impacts of his drug addiction. She urged for another chance for drug rehab, and a sentence of parole over prison.

“Prison will only harden him,” the friend said.