GJ meth dealer sentenced in shooting
A man who reportedly told officials in a pre-sentence report that he’d regularly sold methamphetamine in Grand Junction since 2009 was sentenced Tuesday to serve 22 years in prison in connection with the shooting of a man at a Horizon Drive motel.
Joseph Lara, 27, denied shooting anyone but nonetheless pleaded guilty to first-degree assault under an agreement that exposes him to a possible prison term of 18 to 22 years. Under the deal, prosecutors dismissed an attempted first-degree murder charge, among other counts.
District Judge Brian Flynn said the maximum term was “the only conscionable sentence” for Lara, who has 21 prior misdemeanors and a prior felony conviction. Probation that resulted from the felony conviction was imposed by Flynn. Lara’s criminal record showed offenses dating back to 2005, the judge noted.
“It’s hard to find any lapses (in crimes) other than when you’ve been in jail,” Flynn said.
Lara was arrested in Denver following the shooting of 31-year-old Joseph Davis, who was shot in the stomach and arm on the morning of June 4, 2012, inside room 228 at Affordable Inns, 721 Horizon Drive. Davis survived but did not attend the sentencing.
Lara’s defense argued a strong motive for the shooting never emerged. Chief Deputy District Attorney Mark Hand said there was evidence among four people in the hotel room of meth use the night before the shooting.
Four witnesses told investigators Lara entered the room before opening fire twice. One person described Lara fleeing the scene with “a wide grin on his face,” according to an arrest affidavit.
Lara’s public defender, Elsa Archambault, discounted those witnesses while suggesting gang influence in their statements. Archambault said one witness, who faces separate criminal charges in the case, Joshua Peterson, 30, of Montrose, is a member of a known motorcycle gang while his father is chapter president of Montrose’s Sons of Silence.
“Everyone decided to blame Lara,” she said.
Hand rejected the suggestion, noting a high level of consistency in the four witness statements.
“It’s almost implausible to assert all of these witnesses pointed the finger at Lara because of gang affiliation,” Hand told the judge.
Peterson, meanwhile, faces pending charges relating to the case of being an accessory to a crime and tampering with physical evidence.