A Perris city councilman caught with methamphetamine after reporting a theft during a weekend tryst was sentenced Friday to five years probation and one year in a supervised work program.
Julio Cesar Rodriguez, 29, pleaded guilty Monday to possession of drugs for sale or distribution. In exchange for the admission, the Riverside County District Attorney's Office dropped three drug-related felony and two misdemeanor charges against him.
Rodriguez had to immediately resign his seat on the city council under the plea deal.
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Superior Court Judge David Gunn imposed the sentence stipulated by the prosecution and defense. Instead of doing a year behind bars, the District Attorney's Office requested — and Gunn authorized — that Rodriguez be allowed to remain in his current job and limit his activity outside of working hours, as part of a sheriff's "work release" program.
Rodriguez was arrested last June after he was found with an undisclosed quantity of meth and exhibited signs of being under the influence of the drug.
The first-term councilman, who was up for re-election next year, previously denied wrongdoing and defiantly stated he would remain in his seat, despite calls for his resignation. A recall campaign was initiated last fall but ran aground in February after there were problems validating signatures.
According to court papers, last June 24, Rodriguez called deputies to a Perris motel to report the theft of his city-issued iPad, leading to a wider investigation into his activities.
Detectives said they learned that Rodriguez had spent the night with two men, and that after the trio breakfasted together, one of the parties, whose identity was not released, made an excuse to return to the room, then left the motel, apparently with the iPad.
An irate Rodriguez began sending text messages demanding that the device be returned, prompting replies from the unidentified man that the defendant should calm down and not involve the authorities, who would see that he was high, according to investigators.
The stolen device was later tracked down after it had been sold via an Internet site.
A few weeks before charges were filed last September, Mayor Daryl Busch urged Rodriguez to resign, but the defendant was adamant about retaining his seat. The council stripped Rodriguez of all his committee assignments, restricting him to attending and voting during routine council meetings only.
According to court records, he has prior convictions for driving-related offenses, but nothing more serious.