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August 20, 2013
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2 enter pleas on heroin charges

Two men accused of distributing heroin in Carson Valley reached plea agreements with the district attorney’s office.

Matthew Price, 25, pleaded no contest Monday to possession of a controlled substance for sale.

In exchange for his guilty plea, prosecutors won’t oppose his request for probation, or ask for additional jail time.

He faces up to four years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

Judge Michael Gibbons advised Price that it’s up to the judge what the sentence is despite the plea agreement.

Gibbons refused a request to release Price from jail on his own recognizance.

The defendant said he was unlikely to post bail which the judge reduced from $5,000 to $2,500 cash or bond prior to his sentencing Oct. 14.

“You’re probably better off staying in jail,” Gibbons said. “You won’t have an opportunity to get in trouble.”

Attorney Matt Ence said Price was pleading no contest “because he didn’t actually possess the heroin himself, and wanted to draw that distinction.”

Ence said Price accepted the agreement to avoid prosecution on more serious charges. Originally, he was charged with offering or attempting to sell a controlled substance, and conspiracy to violate the Uniform Controlled Substances Act.

Codefendant Heath Crawford-Penueta, 33, pleaded guilty Tuesday to possession of a controlled substance, and was granted a deferred sentence pending successful completion of Western Nevada Regional Drug Court.

Prosecutor Erik Levin said the state could prove that Price, Penueta and another individual drove to Reno and obtained heroin for a confidential informant for the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office.

They were pulled over on June 25 for a traffic violation.

A search of the suspects and the vehicle turned up several hypodermic needles, the bottom of an aluminum soda can with suspected heroin residue.

“On the way back from Reno, it became apparent that they (the defendants) were not going to hook up with the agents to give them the drugs. Deputies found some heroin, but obviously a lot had been consumed by the occupants of the vehicle,” Lopez said.

Gibbons said it was unusual that Price would be released prior to sentencing without going straight into treatment, or that the state would agree to no jail time.

“Is there something going on I don’t know about?” the judge asked.

Ence said Price intended to be involved in treatment, but wasn’t asking for drug court or a deferred sentence.

“If he’s using heroin, it’s a very hard drug to stay away from,” Gibbons said. “If he’s released, and starts using, the chance of probation goes way down.”

Ence said Price had been clean for a year while living out of the area.

“He came back and fell in with some bad individuals,” Ence said.

Gibbons said if Price bails out, he must be under the supervision of the Department of Alternative Sentencing.

Crawford-Penueta admitted to Judge Tod Young on Tuesday that he was a heroin addict, and had been clean for three weeks, since his arrest. He was ordered to appear Aug. 26 in drug court.

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The Record Courier Updated Aug 20, 2013 05:56PM Published Aug 20, 2013 01:08PM Copyright 2013 The Record Courier. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.