After deliberating for 61/2 hours Thursday, a Pitkin County jury found a 33-year-old Texas man not guilty of felony theft.
Kevin Keheley, of Austin, was accused of bilking an Aspen resident out of more than $10,000 after agreeing in 2012 to develop a smartphone application for him in less than six weeks. The app was never developed.
The Aspen Police Department investigated the matter a year ago and obtained a warrant for Keheley’s arrest in March. Keheley, a former resident of the Aspen area, turned himself over to authorities in August. He pleaded not guilty to felony theft in Pitkin County District Court in October.
At the start of the trial, Deputy District Attorney Andrea Bryan said the facts would show that Keheley “built a pyramid of false promises.” Defense attorney Laurie Schmidt told the 12-person jury that her client got caught up in a business dispute but nothing illegal.
Bryan said Keheley was working at a small company with a friend in Aspen but got seriously behind on rent, to the tune of $6,500 by August 2012. To cover the debt to his friend, she said, Keheley promised the man that he could develop an iOS application for an iPhone — a program that would allow legal and medical professionals, as well as teens, to send and receive encrypted text messages.
An Aug. 12, 2012, contract called for the man to compensate Keheley with $17,000, of which $10,000 was paid up front, Bryan said. One week later, Keheley asked for, and received, another $1,500.
Keheley moved to Austin but promised to finish the job, the prosecutor said. Months went by with limited communication between the two, she said. By January 2013, emails purportedly sent by Keheley’s mother to the alleged victim claimed that her son was gravely ill and in a Texas hospital but that the $11,500 would be repaid, Bryan said.
The subsequent Aspen police investigation, however, showed that at the time Keheley was supposed to be hospitalized, he was making ATM withdrawals and fast-food purchases in Austin, she said.
Schmidt, whose practice is based in Denver, asked the jurors to be patient and to wait until all the evidence was heard.
“You’re going to hear (the alleged victim) testify that he went several months without hearing from Mr. Keheley,” she said. “Wait to hear how many times he contacted Mr. Keheley and Mr. Keheley contacted him.”
As for email exchanges between the two, “these emails also show there was an intent to pay (money) by Mr. Keheley,” Schmidt said. “There was a discussion there about paying back this money that may or may not have even been owed. At the bottom line, you have two adults entering into a contract, and one gets upset and one gets charged with a crime. That’s what this case boils down to.”
The trial started Tuesday, and testimony ended Wednesday afternoon. Jurors returned the not-guilty verdict at about 5:15 p.m. Thursday.