Cristian Lopez

KINGMAN — Mohave County Judge Billy Sipe imposed a 71⁄2-year prison sentence Wednesday after reluctantly approving a drug case plea agreement that he questioned for its “leniency.” The punishment was stipulated in a deal convicting a Kokomo, Indiana man of transporting dangerous drugs for sale.

Cristian Lopez, 24, was the driver of a vehicle stopped for a traffic violation on Interstate 15 just south of the Utah border in January. Twenty pounds of methamphetamine was confiscated, separately packaged in 20-one-pound bags.

“That’s a substantial amount of meth,” Judge Sipe told attorneys, asking them to justify the sentencing limitation of 71⁄2 years prison. “Twenty pounds of meth is a lot, even if he’s just moving this through Mohave County to someplace else.”

Defense attorney Nathan Best said mitigating factors for the court to consider were Lopez’s age, that he had no previous criminal history whatsoever and that he was less culpable than his co-defendant.

“He says that he was kind of along for the ride,” Best said of Lopez. “He was in the role of a mule in this case.”

Sipe said he reluctantly decided to accept the plea deal, knowing he’d be asked to recuse himself and the same agreement would get approved by another judge.

The passenger in the vehicle from which the meth was seized, Joel Padilla, 24, also of Utah, remains in jail awaiting trial.

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