JANESVILLE — A Whitewater man caught with about 20 pounds of marijuana in his car during a Janesville traffic stop one year ago has been sentenced to probation and one year behind bars.

Yovani Ramirez-Mendoza, 22, of 903 E. Clay St., Whitewater, was sentenced to six years of probation, one of those years to be spent in jail, during his appearance in Rock County Circuit Court Wednesday, Nov. 20.

He avoided prison largely because of his age and the fact that he had no previous convictions, Judge John Wood indicated.

Rock County Assistant District Attorney Katharine Buker noted that Ramirez-Mendoza was found on Nov. 5, 2018, with a large amount of the illegal pot in 18 vacuum-sealed packages, more than $5,000 in cash and documents indicating he had been to Europe.

“This was obviously high-level, commercial drug trafficking,” Buker said.

Buker and defense attorney Anthony Flitcroft recommended probation, however. Buker noted that Ramirez-Mendoza faces prison if he can not handle the unusually long probation term.

Buker said Ramirez-Mendoza also faces a charge of possession with intent to deliver marijuana near a school and maintaining a drug trafficking place, both as party to the crime, in Whitewater, on Dec. 8.

Police found about 200 THC-infused vape cartridges and about 14 grams of marijuana in Ramirez-Mendoza’s home, according to a criminal complaint.

Flitcroft would not go into detail about the Walworth County case other than to say his client had pleaded not guilty.

Flitcroft said that Ramirez-Mendoza has moved in with his family, has been in treatment since his Janesville arrest, and is remorseful.

“What I did was wrong, and I am taking it very seriously,” Ramirez-Mendoza said, adding that he has gotten rid of the “bad influences” in his life.

Judge Wood said it was a tough call given the amount of the drug — the biggest he has seen since becoming a judge — and the seriousness of the charge, possession with intent to deliver marijuana, which carries a maximum sentence of 12½ years in the prison system.

But Wood went along with the attorneys’ recommendation. He ordered the jailtime be served with work-release privileges.

Ramirez-Mendoza had asked for 60 days to make arrangements with his employers and spend Christmas with his family before going to jail. Buker said he should go to jail immediately, saying a 60-day delay would send the wrong message.

Wood gave Ramirez-Mendoza until Monday, Nov. 25, to make arrangements and report to the Rock County Jail and apply for the jail diversion program, which would allow him to serve his time at home on a monitoring bracelet.

Ramirez-Mendoza also was ordered to forfeit $1,500 of the cash found in his possession at the time of arrest to ECHO, the Janesville nonprofit that helps the needy.

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