A Bloomfield, N.M., man with multiple felony convictions has been sentenced to 96 years in prison for participating in a crime ring that stole vehicles and traded them for methamphetamine.
Jaydee Russell, 41, plans to appeal various aspects of his case, said his attorneys John Baxter of Durango and David Eisner of Grand Junction.
"There are a lot of issues to appeal," Eisner said. "I don't think it's over yet."
On Nov. 20, a jury convicted Russell of four felonies: vehicular theft, tampering with a witness, conspiracy to distribute meth, and the most serious charge, violating Colorado's Organized Crime Control Act.
The criminal enterprise operated from Aug. 1, 2004, until Feb. 1, 2006, in the Four Corners.
In a written order issued Tuesday, District Judge David Dickinson deemed Russell a habitual criminal with five prior felonies.
The previous convictions included burglary, trespassing, theft, receiving stolen property and possession of a firearm by a felon.
Under Colorado law, people with three or more felonies must be sentenced to four times the presumptive maximum range for any new offenses.
Russell faced a maximum of 24 years in prison for violating Colorado's Organized Crime Control Act, so he faced 96 years as a habitual criminal.
In July 2006, a state grand jury indicted 20 people on suspicion of participating in a crime ring whereby participants stole trucks and drove them to New Mexico to be disassembled and reassembled with one another, making them difficult to identify as stolen. They were then traded for meth imported from Mexico.
All 20 cases have been heard or dismissed, except for one involving David Torrez, whom prosecutors portray as the crime ring's leader.
Torrez of Fruitland, N.M., ordered certain vehicles stolen while other people, such as Russell, carried out those orders, prosecutors alleged.
A two-week trial for Torrez is set to begin May 11 in District Court in La Plata County.
The indictments were obtained by the Colorado Attorney General's Office because the crime ring involved multiple jurisdictions in the Four Corners. The cases were then turned over to the 6th Judicial District Attorney's Office for prosecution.
Russell's case was prosecuted by Janet Drake, a senior assistant with the Colorado Attorney General's office. She was appointed to serve as a special prosecutor with the 6th Judicial District to oversee Russell's case and Torrez's case.
In a phone interview Wednesday, Drake said people who participate in organized crime should take heed of Russell's lengthy prison sentence.
"It certainly sends a message that methamphetamine use and distribution will not be tolerated in Colorado," she said.
Colorado Attorney General John Suthers said: "Methamphetamine is a blight upon our communities and will not be tolerated in Colorado. This sentence sends a powerful message to those who might consider challenging our resolve in these cases."