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Two face deportation after pot-debt robbery

Three men have been sentenced for their reported roles in a Medford robbery in which they took a Medford man’s truck to cover a marijuana debt.

Rafael Olivera Valencia and Jose Alfredo Butanda of Corning, California, and Adrian Rivera-Espinoza of Medford were each sentenced to probation, with credit for the eight months they’d served after pleading no-contest to felony charges for their roles in taking a truck from the man last fall, That ended a Medford case that opened with the report of a carjacking, leading to a major marijuana raid at Rivera-Espinoza’s home. Two of the three, however, are facing deportation.

On Sept. 16, victim Cesar Andres Olmedo-Pena first reported his truck stolen, allegedly at gunpoint, and then later reported to police that he was held for ransom over thousands owed in an illicit marijuana deal.

By Sept. 20, Medford police had seized more than 180 pounds of illegally grown marijuana from Rivera-Espinoza’s home at 1129 Pinecroft Ave., not far from the intersection of West McAndrews and Sage roads.

Valencia and Butanda had come from California, reportedly to collect on the debt, according to Jackson County Circuit Court proceedings and earlier news reports.

Butanda pleaded no contest Friday in Jackson County Circuit Court to a felony count of coercion for his role in the theft, closing the case. A no-contest plea is not an admission of guilt, but has the same legal consequences as a guilty plea.

Deputy District Attorney Marco Boccato said that at trial prosecutors would have argued that Butanda had been “the muscle” in the robbery, and that Butanda had used a gun — a claim that Butanda’s court-appointed defense lawyer Clint Oborn denied.

“Threats were made to the victim,” Boccato said.

Oborn said his client had passed a polygraph with “flying colors” denying that a gun had been involved, and noted that the victim had changed his story several times. He said he believed he’d have a strong case at trial, but Butanda decided to take the negotiated plea deal rather than face trial on charges that carry mandatory-minimum sentences of as much as 7 1/2 years. As terms of the plea deal, charges of first- and second-degree kidnapping and second-degree robbery were dismissed.

“Mr. Butanda would like to take advantage of this offer,” Oborn told Circuit Judge Lorenzo Mejia.

“I don’t doubt he likes this offer,” Mejia said. “It’s an amazing offer.

Butanda was sentenced to three years of supervised probation with terms including no possessing weapons and no use of controlled substances, including cannabis, without a valid prescription.

Valencia, who Boccato said was the “most culpable” in the crime, was handed a similar jail and probation sentence Tuesday in Jackson County Circuit Court after pleading no-contest to second-degree robbery. The crime was relieved from Measure 11 sentencing because Valencia only used “words or conduct” to claim he was armed during the robbery.

Rivera-Espinoza, was sentenced to jail and probation Thursday after pleading guilty to a felony count of coercion for his role in the robbery. His last name is spelled “Rivera-Espinosa” in U.S. District Court records, where he is slated to make an appearance Tuesday in U.S. District Medford on counts of illegally re-entering the United States after previously being deported in 2004, following a cocaine-distribution conviction in U.S. District Court in Eugene.

Valencia also faces an illegal reentry charge in federal court, accusing him of previously being deported in 2005 following convictions in Glenn County, California, for possessing methamphetamine and battery of a police officer; and again convicted in 2014 of illegally entering the United States in the U.S. District Court out of eastern California.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or nmorgan@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at @MTCrimeBeat.

Rafael Olivera Valencia
Jose Alfredo Butanda