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State of Idaho v. Jesus Ariel Chacon

September 10, 2008

STATE OF IDAHO, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
JESUS ARIEL CHACON, JR., DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the District Court of the Fifth Judicial District, State of Idaho, Minidoka County. Hon. Monte B. Carlson; Hon. R. Barry Wood, District Judges.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Lansing, Judge

2008 Opinion No. 86

Stephen W. Kenyon, Clerk

Judgment of conviction and concurrent thirty-five-year sentences with fifteen-year determinate terms for two counts of conspiracy to traffic in methamphetamine and concurrent unified fifteen-year sentences with five-year determinate terms for three additional counts of conspiracy to traffic in methamphetamine, affirmed. Order revoking probation and executing sentence for possession of methamphetamine with intent to deliver, affirmed.

Jesus Ariel Chacon challenges his conviction for several drug offenses and the associated sentences imposed after the district court found that Chacon had failed to perform his obligations under a confidential informant agreement, thereby relieving the State of its obligations under the agreement.

I.

STATEMENT OF FACTS

While on probation for possession of methamphetamine with intent to deliver, Idaho Code section 37-2732(a)(1)(A), Chacon was charged on August 26, 2005 with, among other things, five counts of conspiracy to traffic in methamphetamine, I.C. §§ 18-1701, 37-2732(f), 37- 2732(a)(1)(A) and 37-2732B(a)(4)(C). Chacon subsequently entered into a plea agreement and confidential informant agreement with the State, whereby he pleaded guilty to the five counts of trafficking. Chacon's main obligation under the confidential informant agreement was to purchase controlled substances from a specifically-named target as directed by the Mini-Cassia Drug Task Force and to provide testimony and cooperation in the prosecution of members of the target's organization. Chacon was also required to work with the Task Force in generally "identifying, apprehending, and convicting those people involved in the use, distribution, and manufacture of controlled substances." In exchange, the State agreed to dismiss four of the five counts if Chacon fulfilled his obligations under the agreement. The State also agreed to recommend a sentence on the remaining count of twenty-five years' imprisonment with five years fixed, a $15,000 fine, and restitution if Chacon fulfilled his end of the agreement. The agreement gave Chacon sixty days to perform his obligations, with the possibility of reasonable time extensions.

Some members of the Task Force were reluctant to have the State enter into the agreement due to their doubt that Chacon could perform or would be willing to put forth the effort necessary to be successful. Nevertheless, the agreement was eventually signed, due largely to Chacon's assurances that he would be able to make buys from the named target, whom the Task Force considered to be of high value. When Chacon later reported that he was unable to arrange any transactions with the target or members of the target's distribution ring, detectives urged him to set up buys from other sources. Despite Chacon's initial assurances of his ability to arrange drug transactions, during a period of more than half a year he did not arrange a single drug purchase from either the named target or any other seller.

After approximately seven months without any buys or any actionable leads, Chacon's case proceeded to sentencing. The State took the position that Chacon had not complied with the confidential informant agreement and that the State was therefore excused from any obligation to dismiss four of the five counts or to recommend the agreed sentence. At the sentencing hearing, Chacon testified that he had made sincere efforts to set up buys first from the named target and then from other dealers per his supervising officer's instructions. He maintained that it became impossible for him to make any buys, and that this was most likely because too many people in the drug dealing community were made wary by Chacon's release from custody pending sentencing and feared that he was working with police. The district court nevertheless found that Chacon had breached the confidential informant agreement and that the State's performance was therefore excused. The court imposed unified thirty-five-year sentences with fifteen-year determinate terms on two counts, and unified fifteen-year sentences with five-year determinate terms on the three remaining counts. Chacon's probation was also revoked in the separate possession case, and that sentence of seven years with five years determinate was executed, to be served concurrently with the sentences for conspiracy.

The two cases have been consolidated on appeal. Chacon challenges the district court's finding that he breached the confidential informant agreement and contends that his sentences in both cases are excessive.

II. ANALYSIS

A. Whether Chacon May Enforce the Confidential Informant Agreement

Confidential informant agreements, like plea agreements, are generally governed by contract law principles, Dunlap v. State, 141 Idaho 50, 63, 106 P.3d 376, 389 (2004), and both the prosecutor and the defendant are bound by their agreement. Berg v. State, 131 Idaho 517, 519, 960 P.2d 738, 740 (1998). A court need not blindly follow contract law principles in reviewing confidential informant agreements, however, because "[c]ases may arise in which the law of contracts will not provide a sufficient analogy and mode of analysis." Dunlap, 141 Idaho at 63, 106 P.3d at 389 (quoting United States v. Carrillo, 709 F.2d 35, 36-37 n.1 (9th Cir. 1983)) (unconscionability of ...


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