The U.S. attorney's office has reconsidered its attempt to make a federal judge reconsider his change of heart in a drug case.
The convoluted case resulted from a defendant's bad luck in walking in on agents searching a suspected drug headquarters.On Feb. 2, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent Steven Lough and three state narcotics agents searched a home at 1552 S. Sixth East, using a search warrant. They seized drugs, alleged drug records, address books and firearms.
The officers believed the home was used as a base by members of a drug ring, based on court-authorized telephone wiretaps. Phone calls that were believed drug-connected were traced between the Salt Lake home and various Arizona numbers.
As the search was going on, Kenneth Mario Jiron showed up to make a drug sale. He walked in without knocking, and Lough frisked him, discovering that Jiron carried a package of 37.5 grams of marijuana, as well as $995 in cash.
Officers found a loaded Smith & Wesson .38-caliber special and 473 grams of marijuana in the trunk of his car, which was parked across the street. "Jiron admitted that the gun was his and that he was using it for protection," wrote Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard D. Parry.
On Feb. 11, Jiron, address listed as 570 E. Commonwealth Ave., was indicted by a federal grand jury in Salt Lake City on a charge of possession of marijuana with the intention of distributing it, and use of a gun in a drug-trafficking crime.
Jiron waived trial by jury and on June 27, Jenkins found him guilty on both charges.
But before the sentencing, the judge called in lawyers and told them he had second thoughts. "I've been troubled by this case, and I'm going to put it over for a couple of weeks and set the matter down for a reconsideration of at least some aspects of it," he said.
Robert VanSciver, lawyer for Jiron, argued that the gun was not being used in a drug crime. It was locked in the car, across the street from the prospective drug sale, and Jiron carried it only for self-protection, he said.
Jenkins eventually changed his mind on the gun charge. He wrote that the evidence was insufficient to convict Jiron on that charge beyond a reasonable doubt.
So he ruled that Jiron was guilty on the first count and not guilty on the second. He sentenced Jiron to five years in prison and stayed the sentence, putting him on probation for five years with 60 days in a community treatment center.
The U.S. attorney's office appealed Jenkins' change of mind.
"The United States of America hereby moves the court to reconsider its decision," Parry wrote. "The basis for this motion that the court lacked jurisdiction to change its findings once the time for a motion for a new trial had run."
The federal prosecutor's office also filed an appeal with the U.S. Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, attempting to force Jenkins to reinstate the guilty verdict.
But now the prosecutors have changed their minds.
Both Jenkins and the appeals court dismissed the government's appeals.