BROOKINGS – A Madison man who sold methamphetamine near Medary Elementary School in late 2019 and was in possession of meth with the intent to distribute it in Brookings last March has been sentenced to seven years in prison.
Refugio Vasquez Jr., 49, pleaded guilty on July 21 to three counts: distributing meth on Dec. 27, 2019; violating a drug-free zone by doing so in the 700 block of Seventh Avenue South, within 1,000 feet of Medary Elementary; and possession with intent to distribute meth on March 11, 2020.
In exchange for the pleas, two additional counts were dismissed. The State deferred to the court for sentencing, and no additional charges will be brought in the case.
All three charges are Class 4 felonies punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $20,000 fine. The mandatory minimum sentences for the charges total seven years in prison.
At sentencing Tuesday, defense attorney Jennifer Goldammer asked Circuit Judge Greg Stoltenburg to find mitigating circumstances in the case to deviate from the mandatory minimum.
Goldammer said some of her client’s criminal history relates to an alcohol problem resulting from a tragedy, and he worked through those issues. Vasquez is likely going to be the sole caretaker for his three children, and he wants to go home to California to be with them.
Vasquez said he knew his criminal history looked bad on paper, but he said he’s a hard worker and a family man. He apologized for his actions and said he had no excuses. He said he would take his actions back if he could and wants to provide for his kids.
Stoltenburg said he found no reason to deviate from the minimum mandatory sentence.
The judge then sentenced Vasquez to a total of 20 years in prison, with 13 of those years suspended.
For distributing meth, Stoltenburg sentenced Vasquez to five years in prison, with four years suspended. For violating a drug-free zone, the sentence was 10 years in prison, with five years suspended. The possession with intent to distribute meth conviction added five years in prison, with four years suspended.
All of the sentences are to run consecutively to one another.
Vasquez must pay court-appointed attorney fees, drug testing costs, and $106.50 in fines and court costs on each charge. He has to follow the rules and regulations of the Board of Pardons and Paroles and must remain law abiding, and he gets credit for 152 days of pre-trial detention.
He was remanded to the custody of the Brookings County Sheriff’s Office for transport to the state penitentiary.
Brookings County State’s Attorney Dan Nelson said the conviction will help keep the community safe.
“Mr. Vasquez was a primary drug dealer for multiple individuals in the Brookings area. His prison sentence is the appropriate punishment for selling the poison that ruins so many lives in South Dakota,” Nelson said.
“Beginning in December of last year, the Criminal Investigation Division of the Brookings Police Department began obtaining information from confidential informants that Mr. Vasquez would drive into Brookings and sell several grams of methamphetamine during a single transaction. While obtaining audio and visual surveillance, detectives were able to record these transactions and begin building the case against Mr. Vasquez,” Nelson added.
“The coordination between the State’s Attorney’s Office and the Police Department during this investigation and prosecution ensures our community remains safe.”
Contact Jill Fier at [email protected]