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Plea hearing continued in meth case

WORTHINGTON -- A plea hearing scheduled for Tuesday was continued after defendant Santos Manuel Lorenzo-Castillo reportedly changed his mind about accepting the plea agreement.

Lorenzo-Castillo, 25, of Worthington, was charged in September with 12 felony-level counts of controlled substance sale and possession after the Buffalo Ridge Drug Task Force made numerous buys through confidential informants.

More than $2,400 in cash, most of it from a controlled buy earlier that day, and 16 grams of methamphetamine were recovered during a search at Lorenzo-Castillo's residence.

Lorenzo-Castillo's case was scheduled to go to trial Nov. 16, but according to defense attorney Terry Vajgrt, his client signed the plea agreement petition Oct. 31.

"This morning he has indicated he does not wish to enter a plea," Vajgrt told Judge Jeffrey Flynn. "I told him I would come visit him this week with an interpreter and we'd go over the evidence again, go over the plea offer."

Vajgrt then asked that the court either continue the hearing or go on to trial.

Nobles County Assistant Attorney Travis Smith told Flynn the state had considered the matter settled after learning the plea agreement had been signed, and was not prepared to go to trial in mid-November.

Smith said he didn't know if the scientists from the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) would still be available for those dates, having already been informed the case had settled.

Smith also said he was unsure whether he would be available and prepared for those particular trial dates due to personal circumstances.

Flynn said his file showed Lorenzo-Castillo had made a speedy trial request back in October before signing the plea agreement, and asked Smith to check on the availability of the BCA staff needed.

The plea agreement was for Lorenzo-Castillo to serve a sentence of approximately 74 months, whereas he could face more than 100 months incarceration if convicted by a jury.