Man convicted in meth deal

— A jury on Tuesday convicted a 23-year-old Steamboat Springs man of selling methamphetamine near Soda Creek Elementary School.

After deliberating for two hours, the jury found Cosme Orlando Lopez guilty of two counts of distributing a Sched--ule 2 controlled substance, a Class 3 felony. The jury also found Lopez guilty of selling the drugs within 148 feet of a public elementary school, which increases the severity and punishment of the crime.

Lopez will be sentenced at 1 p.m. March 27.

Lopez was arrested June 10 after officers with the Greater Routt and Moffat County Narcotics Enforcement Team observed Lopez selling meth to an undercover informant.

Lopez's roommate, 42-year-old Jesus Alvarez Frias, also was arrested on suspicion of selling meth from his home.

During the first day of Lopez's trial Monday, Assistant District Attorney Kerry St. James played a recording of two drug transactions that took place at Lopez's home June 9 and 10.

Lopez's attorney, public defender Trevor McFee, told the jury Monday that prosecutors and police did not do enough to identify all the people present at Lopez's home during the transaction, making it difficult for St. James to prove it was Lopez selling the drugs.

On Tuesday, McFee finished his cross-examination of the undercover informant GRAMNET officers used in the transactions.

McFee told the jury that the informant was a former drug user who also pleaded guilty to stealing a credit card and using it to make purchases in May.

St. James called GRAMNET agent Matt Harmon to the stand. Harmon was the officer who conducted the investigation and observed the undercover drug sales.

During his testimony, Har--mon confirmed what the informant went through to buy the drugs, including how much the informant was paid for his work and how he wore a wire tap during the transaction.

The last person St. James called to the witness stand

was Drug Enforce--ment Admin--istra--tion forensic chemist Minh Nguyen -- a San Francisco chemist who tested the drugs taken from the transaction for meth.

During his testimony, Nguyen explained to the jury how he tests substances for drugs. Nguyen also told the jury how he got the assignment to test the samples and how he handled them.

McFee told the jury that the evidence could have been tampered with because of how many people typically touch lab samples during testing.

McFee also questioned the value of the sample because of how it may have been transported from San Francisco to Steamboat Springs.

Once the prosecution rested its case, McFee did, as well, telling District Judge Paul McLimans that Lopez did not want to testify in his trial.

St. James said police were right to go after Lopez.

"You're darn right Cosme Orlando Lopez was targeted," he said. "The police did exactly what they should have -- they targeted a known drug dealer who was selling less than 1,000 feet from an elementary school. This is a compelling case of guilt. This defendant should know from (the jury's) decision that this kind of behavior will not be tolerated."

-- To reach Alexis DeLaCruz, call 871-4234 or e-mail adelacruz@steamboatpilot. com

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