Prosecutors on Friday agreed to drop first-degree murder charges against a Colorado Springs man who spent nearly a year in jail on suspicion of participating in the execution-style shooting of a methamphetamine dealer.
Instead of a potential life sentence in prison, Israel Jimenez-Roldan, 49, was sentenced to 18 months - the result of a plea bargain in which he admitted to weapon possession by a previous offender.
In exchange, all other counts were dismissed. In discussing the about-face, prosecutor Brien Cecil said back-to-back trials for two other men linked to the April 2017 killing of Lawrence Gloster demonstrated shortcomings in the evidence against Jimenez-Roldan.
"Based on how the evidence came out ... we no longer believe we have a reasonable likelihood of success," Cecil said.
The two other defendants, Anthony "Bird" Galvan-Flores and Anthony Loya, were both convicted at trials this year of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison without parole.
The plea bargain was accepted by Judicial District Judge Eric Bentley, who agreed the previous trials raised a "substantial doubt about whether Mr. Jimenez-Roldan was a participant." He assessed the likelihood of conviction at trial as "very low."
Jimenez Roldan was credited for 324 days he was already incarcerated.
In comments to the court, Jimenez-Roldan thanked his attorney, Jennifer Stock of Colorado Springs, and expressed gratitude toward the judge and prosecution team.
"I would like to thank God because the truth has come out," Jimenez-Roldan said in court.
Said Stock: "We are so grateful to the prosecution for being willing to re-evaluate the evidence."
Gloster, 23, was abducted at gunpoint, pistol-whipped and shot 14 times in an abandoned ranch building between Peyton and Calhan - deadly comeuppance for mistakes he made as part of a drug network run by Galvan-Flores, authorities say.
Attorneys for Galvan-Flores and Loya denied their clients had any involvement and identified one of the shooters as the prosecution's star witness, a 16-year-old boy who told the juries that he witnessed Gloster's killing, but didn't participate. Cecil said he had no credible evidence against the teen or anyone else to justify charges.
Gloster was a two-time cancer patient and son of a Florida anesthesiologist who came to Colorado intending to use marijuana to treat complications of his recurring disease. Instead, he became addicted to meth and began selling the drug for Galvan-Flores, known on the streets as Bird. According to trial testimony, Galvan-Flores ordered his execution after he lost 11 grams of meth when he inadvertently spilled it onto a customer's lap, the latest in a string of on-the-job errors.
The allegation that Jimenez Roldan was the third shooter came from the same teenage witness who implicated the two other men. Although prosecutors say they had probable cause to support his arrest, they didn't have enough corroborating evidence to take the case to trial, Cecil said.
Representatives of the El Paso County Sheriff's Office didn't respond to emails asking if the case would be reopened.