GOSHEN — An Elkhart man received a 20-year sentence Thursday after admitting he dealt cocaine in April.
Julio Aguilar-Reyes, 25, was sentenced to the maximum allowed by the plea agreement he entered in Elkhart County Circuit Court in November. He was charged with the Level 2 felony following an investigation by the Elkhart County Intelligence and Covert Enforcement unit last spring.
Additional counts were dismissed as part of his plea, including dealing methamphetamine as a Level 2 felony and a Level 6 felony as well as two counts of unlawful possession of a firearm, another Level 6 felony. Several pending misdemeanor cases were also dismissed and other potential charges that could have been filed were withdrawn.
In arguing for a 20-year sentence, Elkhart County Deputy Prosecutor Katelan Doyle said Aguilar-Reyes already received a benefit in his plea. The high end of the sentencing range for a Level 2 felony is 30 years.
Circuit Court Judge Michael Christofeno said Aguilar-Reyes likely wouldn’t be eligible for probation since, as an undocumented immigrant, he can’t legally obtain a job.
His lawyer asked the judge to consider suspending a significant portion of his sentence. Attorney Thomas Leatherman said the father of two children, who was brought to the country illegally as a child himself, will have the opportunity to plead his case in an immigration court once he gets out of prison.
“It’s difficult for him, since he can’t get a job or a driver’s license ... but he has an obligation to take care of his children, and he found a way to make money that, unfortunately, was against the law,” Leatherman said. “He has the opportunity to attempt to make a life for himself and to be the father of two young boys.”
He also pointed to the programs and certifications Aguilar-Reyes had completed while in jail, and remarked on the dozen or so friends and relatives who came to court to support him.
Aguilar-Reyes told the judge he wasn’t sure what to say on his own behalf. He said he could only acknowledge what he had done, and offer apologies to his family.
“I know I can’t change my past. I made bad choices, and I won’t blame anyone for my actions,” he said.
He also said he’s been open to ways to improve himself since his arrest, and intends to surround himself with better people.
Christofeno acknowledged his efforts to rehabilitate himself.
“I do understand that you came here not by your own choosing. The question becomes, when you became 18, what actions did you take to try to comply with the law?” he said. “That, to me, is part of a very difficult discussion in this country. I only have the law that I have, and I try to follow the law.”