Baseball fans in South Carolina and around the country may recall Esteban Loaiza starting the 2003 Major League Baseball All-Star game. The 47-year-old pitcher's career spanned more than a decade, but his fortunes took a turn for the worse when his minivan was pulled over for an unspecified traffic violation in February 2018.
During the routine traffic stop, San Diego County Sheriff's Department deputies say they discovered a sophisticated hidden compartment in Loaiza's vehicle. During an ensuing search of the former athlete's Imperial Beach home, Drug Enforcement Administration agents discovered 40 pounds of a substance later identified as cocaine. However, they found no personal possessions or furniture.
This led prosecutors to believe that Loaiza was involved in a drug trafficking scheme and the home was being used to store narcotics. He was subsequently charged with multiple felonies, but the charges were dropped to one count of felony drug possession when a plea agreement was reached in August 2018. That charge could have led to a prison term of between 10 years and life, but U.S. attorneys agreed to a more lenient sentence. On March 8, he was sentenced to three years behind bars to be followed by five years of probation. The judge handing down the sentence also ordered that Loaiza be deported to Mexico after serving his sentence.
This case demonstrates that even federal prosecutors are willing to make generous sentencing offers in return for a successful outcome and a speedy resolution. During plea negotiations, experienced criminal defense attorneys may seek to secure more lenient treatment for their clients by pointing out deficiencies in the prosecution's case. Attorneys could also cite mitigating factors when arguing for a reduced sentence.
Source: Yahoo Sports, "Former All-Star Esteban Loaiza sentenced to 3 years for felony drug possession", Cassandra Negley, March 8, 2019