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Nebraska Court of Appeals upholds Scottsbluff man’s drug conviction, sentence

March 27, 2019

The Nebraska Court of Appeals has affirmed the conviction and sentence of a Scottsbluff man convicted of drug charges.

Mike Valdez had been arrested in January 2017 after he had sold methamphetamine to an informant. An investigator contacted police during the buy when the vehicle that Valdez and the informant were traveling in left. The investigator reported that Valdez had warrants for his arrest. As a Scottsbluff Police officer attempted to stop the vehicle that Valdez was traveling in, the man fled on foot. Valdez was observed to be carrying an object that looked like a gun and later, a passenger in the vehicle confirmed that Valdez had a gun. Video also showed Valdez as carrying a weapon and police recovered in a backyard that Valdez had run through. The officer also found a small cellophane packet containing methamphetamine, the similar quantity that Valdez was supposed to provide to the informant.

Prior to trial, Valdez’s attorney had filed two motion to withdraw, alleging that there had been a breakdown in the attorney-client relationship and that Valdez did not want counsel working on the case. Valdez had also filed a pro se motion in which he claimed in his appeal that he felt his attorney had committed a violation of professional ethical conduct.” The district court heard both motions and denied the motions for counsel to withdraw.

After being convicted in October 2017 and sentenced to 11 to 13 years imprisonment on charges of possession of a firearm by a prohibited person, possession of methamphetamine and obstruction of a police officer, Valdez filed an appeal. He argued that the district court erred in denying his trial counsel’s motions to withdraw and motion for continuance and facts at the case were insufficient to sustain a conviction.

In its ruling, the court disagreed, saying that statute does not guarantee Valdez the attorney of his choosing, if he is appointed an attorney. He could have represented himself or hired an attorney, the court said. Valdez did not provide any evidence or specific conduct to support a finding that trial counsel was insufficient.

The court also found that evidence in the trial, including DNA testing that Valdez was a contributor to DNA found on the gun and its magazine, was sufficient to uphold a conviction.

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