One of two UCSB graduate students suspected of conspiring to manufacture, possess and sell Ecstasy (MDMA) pleaded not guilty during his arraignment in the Santa Barbara Superior Court on Monday. The case will go to a settlement conference on June 17 where attorneys for the defendants will negotiate details.
Chemistry Dept. graduate student Alvaro Mercado was arrested March 1 in his Goleta residence following a two-month investigation by police. He allegedly used grant money from the National Institutes of Health to purchase chemicals used in the production of Ecstasy, UC Police Dept. Capt. Bill Bean said. He said Mercado then gave the chemicals to fellow graduate student David Woodmansee, who gave them to an unidentified person, possibly in the Bay Area, to make the drugs.
Deputy District Attorney Lee Carter filed charges against the students May 2, with an additional charge against Mercado for grand theft by embezzlement for using his research grant money to purchase the chemicals.
The four felonies charged against Mercado violate his probation for a prior DUI conviction.
During the settlement conference, attorneys for Mercado and Woodmansee will meet with Carter to discuss evidence and negotiate a sentence, Carter said.
“The outcome of the conference is so far-ranging it can go anywhere from four to five years in prison to a total dismissal,” he said. “There may be a perfectly good defense for what they did.”
According to Carter, cases open to negotiation are typically resolved during settlement conferences and rarely proceed to trial. Mercado and Woodmansee will attend the same conference.
“Both attorneys will be at the settlement conference, and we’ll discuss the evidence and I might have to do more investigating,” Carter said. “But I would say that well over 90 percent of the time cases are resolved during the conference. That’s not to say that they’re resolved on the very first day, but eventually, in well over 90 percent of the cases, a settlement is reached.”
Attorneys for Mercado could not be reached for comment.