TWIN FALLS • Prison probably won’t help 20-year-old Dylan Contreras. At least not in the eyes of Twin Falls County District Judge Randy Stoker, who sentenced Contreras to 15 years to life in prison Monday for an August home invasion robbery.
Stoker said he doubted prison time would change Contreras and didn’t believe the sentence would deter anyone from committing a similar crime.
Still, Twin Falls County Deputy Prosecutor Rosemary Emory argued, society must be protected, and Contreras should be punished for his crime.
Stoker said Contreras, an apparent gang member, hasn’t disavowed his gang membership and is likely to remain a gang member in prison for the rest of his life unless he dramatically changes his view of the world.
“If that’s a decision you want to make, that’s fine with me,” Stoker said.
Contreras, John Valenciano, 20, Luis Sotelo, 20, and a 16-year-old boy were all arrested on charges relating to the Aug. 6, 2012, robbery at Leo and Judy Ray’s Buhl home. The Rays own Fish Processors of Idaho.
Contreras was originally charged with two counts of second-degree kidnapping and robbery. One of the kidnapping counts and an aggravated battery charge — the latter stemming from a separate case where Contreras was accused of breaking a man’s jaw — were dropped as part of a plea deal.
Contreras pleaded guilty to robbery and one count of second-degree kidnapping.
During the hearing, Stoker said he couldn’t imagine what the Rays went through, having guns to their heads and thinking they could be killed during the robbery.
Contreras’ defense attorney, George Essma, said the combination of Contreras’ young age and drug use fueled the events of Aug. 6. Essma said he doubted the robbery would have occurred if it weren’t for Contreras’ addiction to methamphetamine.
Essma argued that Contreras should spend a minimum of 10 years in prison while Emory asked that Contreras be sentenced to 15 to 30 years in prison. Because Stoker’s sentence was longer than the state’s recommendation, Contreras has the right to appeal.
Leo Ray spoke at the sentencing hearings for Contreras and Sotelo, which were both Monday afternoon.
As soon as he realized what was happening, Leo Ray said, he believed his chances of survival were minimal.
“It became apparent that the challenge for me was to keep them from shooting us,” he said.
Leo Ray said he believed he or his wife could have been shot at any time by any of the three men in his home.
“We were fortunate to have lived through it,” he said.
Sotelo, who served as a lookout at the bottom of the Rays’ driveway during the robbery, was sentenced Monday to four to 22 years in prison for one count of robbery.
Sotelo’s defense attorney, Mark Guerry, called the sentence appropriate and fair.
Guerry said Sotelo will likely be deported to Mexico after he serves his prison sentence, and Sotelo’s application for permanent residence is in the process of being denied, now that he’s a convicted felon. Sotelo hasn’t lived in Mexico since he was 2, Guerry said.
Valenciano was sentenced in early January to 15 to 30 years in prison.
A jury trial is scheduled for the 16-year-old boy on Feb. 12, with a pretrial conference on Feb. 6.