Radford University freshman ran ‘mini-syndicate’ prosecutor says

RADFORD — The brief drug-dealing career of a Radford University freshman brought him his own apartment with $25,000 in a safe beneath the kitchen sink and a 9mm pistol in a drawer — but it also brought threats to his family in Northern Virginia and the possibility of decades in prison for the one-time business major, attorneys and relatives said Friday.

“This isn’t some sandal-wearing hippie we caught here,” Radford Commonwealth’s Attorney Chris Rehak said during a circuit court sentencing hearing for Gabriel Eduardo Yus-Baez, 18. “This is a major player in some kind of drug organization.”

Yus-Baez pleaded guilty in November to three counts of possessing drugs with the intent to distribute them — one each for cocaine, ecstasy and marijuana — and to possessing a gun while possessing drugs.

On Friday, Judge Joey Showalter sentenced Yus-Baez to 35 years in prison, then suspended the term after Yus-Baez serves five years and five months. The judge imposed a $4,000 fine, suspended Yus-Baez’s driver’s license for 18 months after his release, and ordered supervision by the probation office for five years.

Before the sentence was pronounced, Yus-Baez said that he knew he had earned punishment but after a year in jail, was more than ready to turn his life around.

“I still plan — even though this is going to get in the way for a moment — to move forward and start something better … Please find it in your heart to let me go out there and make a better life for myself,” Yus-Baez said.

He agreed with defense attorney Jimmy Turk of Radford that he had been “young, dumb and stupid,” but was enticed by the idea of fast money and a showy lifestyle.

Wanda Baez, Yus-Baez’s mother, took the witness stand to speak for the half-dozen or so relatives in the courtroom. “You have put us in the most difficult situation of our lives,” she said to her son.

To Showalter, Baez said that she hoped her son could emerge from whatever punishment was imposed and realize the potential he had shown in high school.

“I hope and pray he has the opportunity to prove he can do better,” she said.

Questioned by Turk, Baez said that the family has felt threatened by people apparently connected to Yus-Baez’s drug cases, which include the Radford charges and another case in Northern Virginia.

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