Aspen heroin case lacks prosecutor; hearing postponed
December 11, 2008
GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” A hearing on a potential plea bargain for suspected heroin dealer Ryan Welgos of Aspen was postponed Thursday, largely because the prosecution was not ready to proceed with the case.
That marked the second time in the last month the issue has been tabled. Senior District Court Judge David Lass scheduled a subsequent hearing Jan. 8 in Garfield County Court, at the request of the defense.
The proposed deal calls for Welgos, 31, to plead guilty to attempted distribution of a schedule I controlled substance. He would receive a suspended sentence of three to six years in prison, provided he enters and completes drug court. In exchange for the plea, the district attorney’s office would drop a number of related counts against him.
The agreement originally was proposed on Nov. 13 before District Court Judge Daniel Petre, who voiced concern because the case was “initially brought forward” by the district attorney’s office as a distribution issue, and morphed into something much different. While he pledged to keep an open mind about the proposal, he also voiced concern about a change in attorneys that could potentially scuttle the deal.
Snowmass Village attorney Arnold P. Mordkin had represented Welgos. But Mordkin had to withdraw from the case Nov. 13, because he was scheduled to become the head prosecutor at the DA’s office in Aspen a week later ” a position he has since filled. As a result, Carbondale-based defense attorney Chip McCrory agreed to replace Mordkin, and a special prosecutor had to be appointed to the case in order to avoid any potential conflict of interest.
That prompted Petre to call for the new attorneys to review the proposed deal before he rendered a decision. While McCrory has reviewed the deal, a special prosecutor has not because no one has been named to the post.
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McCrory said Judge Lass was expected to sign an order Thursday afternoon that would authorize an outside prosecutor be named to finish the case. He said the task of naming a special prosecutor would fall to Mark Hurlbert, who heads the 5th Judicial District Attorney’s Office. Because a special prosecutor was not in place, the hearing Thursday had to be continued.
“It’s possible we might not know who it is until the next (hearing),” McCrory said.
Welgos has been locked up since he was arrested June 19, along with Nelson Raul-Gamez, in Silverthorne, after a three-month investigation headed by the Drug Enforcement Administration. The investigation stemmed from the March overdose death of Adam Ryan Peterson, who was visiting Aspen at the time he died.
Raul-Gamez has a hearing scheduled Friday.
Gregory Elston, a third suspect in the case, was given a two-year deferred sentence, and two years of supervised probation, for possession of a schedule II substance as part of plea agreement he reached in October.
Prosecutors agreed to drop a heroin distribution charge against Elston, an Aspen resident.
Elston was also ordered to complete 75 hours of community service, undergo random drug and alcohol testing, not possess or consume alcohol or illegal drugs and continue with a therapy regiment.
Elston was sentenced Dec. 1, about two months after he surrendered to Aspen police on Oct. 2 on an outstanding warrant that alleged he supplied heroin to Peterson.