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Consecutive sentences in drug buy case ruled inappropriate

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A man sentenced to 40 years in prison after he sold crack cocaine to undercover agents in two separate controlled buys received an inappropriate punishment, the Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday.

Pedro Alvarez was convicted of two counts of Class B felony dealing in cocaine, and a jury convicted him in absentia and sentenced him to serve consecutive 20-year terms after he was found in Mississippi.

The appellate panel ordered the sentences be served concurrently in Pedro Alvarez v. State of Indiana, 09A02-1203-CR-241.

Judge Rudy R. Pyle III wrote that the court has held that consecutive sentences for multiple counts based on nearly identical police buys was inappropriate, citing Rios v. State, 930 N.E.2d 664 (Ind. Ct. App. 2010), and Bell v. State, 881 N.E.2d 1080 (Ind Ct. App. 2008).

Alvarez did not prevail in his appellate claim that the prosecution’s use of a jail mug shot from a prior arrest caused him undue prejudice. The court has held that when a defendant fails to appear, mug shots are of probative value for establishing identity.

“The Cass County Sheriff’s Department only possessed a photograph of Alvarez from a prior arrest and not his current case. The mug shot was redacted to remove references to the prior arrest,” Pyle wrote. “… Had Alvarez simply appeared for his trial, there would have been no reason to admit the mug shot.”

Alvarez was represented on appeal by Lisa M. Traylor-Wolff of Logansport, a former senior judge who was charged Monday in a disciplinary action filed by the Supreme Court.


 

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