Aaron Vieyra, 33, of North Platte was sentenced to up to three years in the state penitentiary Monday for attempting to distribute cocaine.
Lincoln County District Judge Donald Rowlands handed down the sentence.
Vieyra was arrested on May 26, 2011 along with eight others in a major bust by cooperating law enforcement agencies. Vieyra has been out on bond since June 3, 2011, when he paid 10 percent of $100,000.
The former firefighter pled guilty Oct. 15 to two counts of attempted distribution. Rowlands handed down two sentences, one for each count, but ordered the two to run concurrently.
In Vieyra’s defense, attorney Russ Jones called character witnesses for Vieyra.
Fire Department Battalion Chief Billy Kleinow told the court that Vieyra was an average-to-above-average employee and he never had any issues with him in the nine years Vieyra worked there.
“I can only remember Aaron being late to work a couple of times,” Kleinow said.
Fire Chief Paul Pedersen also said he could not recall any issues with Vieyra as an employee.
Linda Shea of the North Platte Jaycees said Vieyra volunteered for fundraisers and other events at least once a month since he got out of jail on bond.
Jones asked the court to “not just rubber stamp” Vieyra and send him to the penitentiary. He said it would cost an average of $36,000 a year to keep Vieyra in the pen, while the state prison system is overcrowded and stressed financially.
Jones said the state doesn’t have funds to provide help or housing for troubled and abused kids and should not spend that money on a man who is not a threat to the community.
Lincoln County Attorney Rebecca Harling said otherwise. She pointed out to the court that the volunteering didn’t start until after Vieyra was out of jail on bond. And, she said police reports indicated that Vieyra was also involved with using steroids and possibly getting them for others. Harling asked for a penitentiary sentence.
District Judge Donald Rowlands said he considered that Vieyra entered a plea, thereby saving the state some expenses.
“Your prior record is minimal,” Rowlands said, “showing only a shoplifting case when you were still a juvenile. In your pre-sentence report, the probation office did say you are a low risk to repeat, but did not recommend probation because of the nature of the crime."
Rowlands said Vieyra distributed “what the court considers a dangerous drug and I feel that probation would send the wrong impression to the public and the community. I have no choice but to sentence you to one and a half to three years.”
Approximately 30 people were in court in support of Vieyra and tears broke out around the gallery when the sentence was handed down.