JANESVILLE

A Whitewater man caught with about 20 pounds of marijuana in his car in a Janesville traffic stop one year ago was sentenced Wednesday in Rock County Court

Yovani Ramirez-Mendoza, 22, of 903 E. Clay St., Whitewater, was sentenced to six years of probation, one of those years to be spent in jail.

He avoided prison largely because of his age and the fact that he had no previous convictions, Judge John Wood indicated.

Assistant District Attorney Katharine Buker noted Ramirez-Mendoza was found on Nov. 5, 2018, with a large amount of the illegal weed in 18 vacuum-sealed packages, more than $5,000 in cash and documents indicating he had been to Europe.

“This was obviously high-level, commercial drug trafficking,” Buker said.

Buker and defense attorney Anthony Flitcroft recommended probation, however. Buker noted Ramirez-Mendoza faces prison if he can’t handle the unusually long probation term.

Buker said Ramirez-Mendoza also faces a charge of possession with intent to deliver marijuana near a school and maintaining a drug trafficking place, both as party to the crime, in Whitewater, on Dec. 8.

Police found about 200 THC-infused vape cartridges and about 14 grams of marijuana in Ramirez-Mendoza’s home, according to a criminal complaint.

Flitcroft would not go into detail about the Walworth County case other than to say his client had pleaded not guilty.

Flitcroft said Ramirez-Mendoza has moved in with his family, has been in treatment since his Janesville arrest, and is remorseful.

“What I did was wrong, and I am taking it very seriously,” Ramirez-Mendoza said, adding that he has gotten rid of the “bad influences” in his life.

Wood, the judge, said it was a tough call given the amount of the drug—the biggest he has seen since becoming a judge—and the seriousness of the charge, possession with intent to deliver marijuana, which carries a maximum sentence of 12½ years in the prison system.

But Wood went along with the attorneys’ recommendation. He ordered the jail time be served with work-release privileges.

Ramirez-Mendoza had asked for 60 days to make arrangements with his employers and spend Christmas with his family before going to jail. Buker said he should go to jail immediately, saying a 60-day delay would send the wrong message.

Wood gave Ramirez-Mendoza until Monday to make arrangements and report to the Rock County Jail and apply for the jail diversion program, which would allow him to serve his time at home on a monitoring bracelet.

Ramirez-Mendoza also was ordered to forfeit $1,500 found in his possession at the time of arrest to ECHO, the Janesville nonprofit that helps the needy.