ST. GEORGE, UT – An alleged illegal immigrant accused of possessing illegal drugs with the intent to sell them pleaded guilty to the criminal charges Friday as a jury was about to be selected for his trial.
Mario Esteban Zepeda-Palma, 25, of St. George faced felony counts related to his arrest on an existing warrant that turned up cocaine and a few individual baggies of methamphetamine that Zepeda-Palma was planning to sell, but the charges were reduced to misdemeanors under a plea agreement.
Zepeda-Palma was granted 24 months’ probation with authorization to be released from jail in relation to the charges, but defense attorney Ken Combs said his client is still “going to be in jail a while” because of a federal immigration hold with a pending deportation hearing.
Zepeda-Palma is also accused of pulling a loaded .22 caliber semi-automatic pistol on a man whom he believed had previously offended his girlfriend during the alleged victim’s family gathering at Sand Hollow Reservoir’s beach.
Deputy County Attorney James Weeks said that case may begin working toward trial or a plea agreement at a Sept. 6 hearing now that the older drug case has been resolved.
Weeks said the 90 days Zepeda-Palma has been in jail would already exceed the amount of time recommended by the government for misdemeanor drug offenses, even those involving drugs for sale, if not for the immigration hold.