Luis Natanel Reyes said he wasn’t feeling well when they came for him in his jail cell in Port Hadlock on the morning of his sentencing in court for smuggling drugs into Olympic Corrections …
Luis Natanel Reyes said he wasn’t feeling well when they came for him in his jail cell in Port Hadlock on the morning of his sentencing in court for smuggling drugs into Olympic Corrections Center.
It’s doubtful he felt much better after.
Reyes, 25, was wheeled into the courtroom of Jefferson County Superior Court Judge Keith Harper Friday morning, nearly a month after jurors found him guilty of a 2021 conspiracy that involved smuggling drugs into the remote prison on Jefferson’s West End with the help of a sister, brother, and other conspirators.
Despite multiple pleas to have the hearing pushed back, as well as a request for a new trial based on allegations of misconduct by prosecutors, mistakes made by the court, and the makeup of the jury, the longest case on Friday’s long docket came to a close when the judge sentenced Reyes to 90 months in prison for delivery of a controlled substance (heroin, methamphetamine, and Suboxone).
Prosecutors had alleged Reyes was at the center of a scheme to smuggle drugs into the remote prison near Forks, by having people on the outside throw packages of drugs over the prison fence in the greenhouse area of the correctional facility, where an inmate who works in the garden would retrieve them and take them to Reyes and his bunkmate. The setup unraveled after some inmates appeared to be sickened to the point of needing medical care, and drugs were later found hidden in a prison toilet.
Prison staff conducted a search of the unit where Reyes was housed and found a bag of contraband on the back of the toilet.
Officers also discovered that someone had tried to flush a bag of drugs in the toilet but it was so big the toilet became clogged.
Inside the bag, officers found a quarter ounce of suspected heroin, a half ounce of suspected methamphetamine, 37 Suboxone strips, and other contraband.
At the close of a weeklong trial in Jefferson County Superior Court in December, jurors tendered guilty verdicts on three felony charges: delivery of a controlled substance; second-degree introducing contraband; and conspiracy to deliver a controlled substance.
During Reyes’ appearance in court late last week, prosecutors noted his long criminal history, and asked that he be given 10 years in prison for delivery of a controlled substance.
On the second charge, of introducing contraband in the second-degree, the request was for five years, and for conspiracy to deliver a controlled substance, one year, with all sentences to start at the same time.
In their sentencing recommendation, prosecutors set out a life of crime that began when Reyes was 13.
Reyes has 23 prior felony convictions, with six residential burglary convictions in King County while he was a juvenile, followed by 17 more felonies in King and Pierce counties from 2018 through 2019. His convictions as an adult include burglary, unlawful possession of firearms, motor vehicle theft, possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver, and possession of a stolen vehicle.
Prosecutors noted that he pulled his brother and sister “into his criminal enterprise” of smuggling drugs into prison — neither had a history of felony crime — as Reyes tried to build a “nest egg” of cash he could have when he got out of custody.
Reyes’ appearance in court Friday was a holdover from the previous week, when sentencing was delayed after Reyes’ attorney, Julian St. Marie, called in sick to court and the hearing was delayed a week.
Friday’s hearing was expanded to include
St. Marie’s request for a new trial for Reyes, alleging he did not get a fair trial due to misconduct by prosecutors, and errors made by the judge during the December trial. St. Marie has claimed prosecutors waited too long to give her transcripts made from recordings of Reyes’ phone calls in prison with others involved in the drug plan.
St. Marie asked Harper to push back sentencing again Friday, noting the poor health of the defendant.
“He is really ill. He advised jail staff that he had been throwing up all morning,”
St. Marie said.
He also complained of chest pains, she said.
“In light of my client’s condition I am duty-bound to ask for a continuance,” St. Marie added. “I think he really should see a doctor.”
A corrections officer who tried to retrieve Reyes from his cell for his court appearance noted he had not noticed any vomit in the cell earlier that morning.
Deputy Roderick Macon said he was told when he came in at the start of his
6 a.m. shift that Reyes wasn’t feeling well. Reyes complained of a high temperature and said he could’t breath.
Macon said an oxygen monitor placed on Reyes’ finger had a normal reading, and his temperature had been normal, too.
When Reyes was asked to come out of his cell, he stayed in his bunk.
“He went completely limp and would not stand on his own,” Macon said.
The jail staff eventually put Reyes in a wheeled restraint chair, where his arms, midsection, and legs were fastened with soft restraints and he was taken from his cell.
In court Friday, Reyes was covered with a jail blanket, his orange prisoner uniform barely visible underneath.
St. Marie asked the court again to delay proceedings after it was determined Reyes should stay in restraints.
“He does not look well to me and I’ve never seen him in this state before,” she said.
Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Anna Phillips, however, said she could understand why Reyes wasn’t feeling well.
“I think that Mr. Reyes may be suffering from anxiety at facing the consequences of his trial,” Phillips said.
The judge ruled against a further delay, however.
St. Marie echoed her earlier concerns about a delay in learning about a witness called by the prosecution, and the use of transcripts from jailhouse phone calls made by Reyes — conversations that prosecutors noted were a mix of English and Spanish — during the trial.
She called it “conviction by transcript.”
“There’s no way that can be considered fair,” she said.
On her statements that the court had made mistakes during the trial, St. Marie also noted they were “awkward” for her to make.
Prosecutors strongly pushed back on the request for a new trial, and said they hadn’t blindsided the defendant’s attorney by using the transcripts or witnesses that helped explain the jailhouse phone calls to jurors.
St. Marie’s claim in court that her defense was also limited by her understanding of Spanish also brought a harsh rebuttal from prosecutors, who supplied the court with a copy of her résumé that noted she is “fluent in Spanish”; a 2015 letter seeking employment that was sent to the Jefferson County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office that said
“I am fluent in Spanish”; and similar statements on her website and legal profile with the Washington State Bar Association.
St. Marie also spoke to the defendant in Spanish during the trial, prosecutors added.
Harper, with a last day as judge on Jan. 31 and one who had previously shared his desire to resolve the case before his retirement, again said a delay wasn’t possible, nor was a new trial.
“The short answer here is no,” Harper said. “There’s no basis for a new trial.
“Substantial justice was done,” he added. “The jury here reached its verdicts. The court will not upset that because there’s no basis to do so.”
On the late submission of evidence to the defense, Harper also noted the transcripts covered tape recordings, and summaries of tapes, that St. Marie already had.
Harper recalled court records of St. Marie’s familiarity with Spanish, noting documents that had been submitted underscored the claim.
What’s more, the transcripts were made of tapes, and summaries of tapes, that St. Marie had before the start of the trial.
“There was no prosecutorial misconduct,” Harper said.
“You had access to this stuff,” the judge said, and added that St. Marie could have asked for an interpreter if she needed one.
On the claim challenging the composition of the jury, Harper was equally blunt.
“This is one of the silliest things I’ve ever seen,” he said. He recalled his early concerns at the start of the trial when many potential jurors were trying to stay out of the box.
“One guy said, ‘I have a sick dog that needs surgery,’” Harper said. Another juror said she was too worried about a relative having cancer, after she had originally tried to be recused because she had travel plans.
Harper also recounted St. Marie’s comment on mistakes supposedly made by the court.
“This is ‘awkward’ for me to say: No, I did not abuse my discretion,” Harper said. “If the Court of Appeals wants to disagree with me, well, that’s life.”
“The verdict was not contrary to the evidence and the law,” he continued. “The jury could find this defendant guilty.”
Again, Harper noted that substantial justice had been served. He noted common courthouse expression: “No trial is perfect.”
“Well, tell me about it,” he added.
With the request for a new trial rejected, and the court considering sentencing,
St. Marie again said she was not prepared to proceed.
“I was ill for more than a week,” St. Marie said.
But noting that sentencing has previously been set for the week before, the judge denied the request for another delay.
“My last day is Tuesday, the 31st,” Harper said. “I am not coming back here. I’m not going to be here.”
“I’m not going to wait another week for something else that can go sideways,” he said.
St. Marie then asked that the sentence be limited to the single crime of conspiracy to deliver a controlled substance. She said only a small amount of drugs was found in the prison. And on the street, she added, that amount might be considered only enough for personal use.
“This is a very small amount of drugs in a facility where drugs are rampant,” she said.
“This is not the case of the century,” St. Marie added. “It’s not a huge amount of drugs.”
Prosecutors had argued otherwise, noting that bringing drugs into the prison had put a great number of people at risk, both inmates and prison staff, and said at least one inmate was hospitalized.
Reyes offered little comment before his sentencing.
“I do think you guys are charging me with the wrong charges. But that’s it,” Reyes said.
Though prosecutors had sought 120 months on the first felony count, Harper instead went to the midpoint of the standard sentencing range of 60 to 120 months, and gave Reyes a prison term of 90 months delivery of a controlled substance.
Harper sentenced the defendant to 55.5 months for introducing contraband in the second degree; and six months for conspiracy to deliver a controlled substance.
Reyes was one of four people charged in the drug-smuggling case.
Two of the four, Patricia Lemus Camacho and Fernando Andres Reyes, pleaded guilty to charges earlier.
The fourth, Dongelique R. Spillers, faces charges of delivery of a controlled substance (heroin) and introducing contraband.
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