| AspenTimes.com

Bootsy burglar’s disguise attempts fail

A local transient with a long criminal history was arrested Tuesday and charged with breaking in to a downtown nightclub and stealing money from the cash register, according to court documents.

Davey Naranjo, 36, was identified by Aspen police officers because of previous contacts and because he showed up at the Pitkin County Jail 15 minutes before he was recorded allegedly burglarizing Bootsy Bellows nightclub wearing the same outfit he wore when surveillance video recorded him inside the business, according to an affidavit filed in Pitkin County District Court.

The break-in at Bootsy Bellows, 515 E. Hyman Ave., occurred just after 4 a.m. Friday. Surveillance video showed Naranjo enter the club’s back door — which a manager said had been left open — with a long-sleeve shirt tied around the lower portion of his head, presumably to try and hide his identity, according to the affidavit.

The video shows him open one of the three cash registers, steal $400 from it then use the shirt to wipe the areas he touched. He tried to open the other two registers but was not successful, the affidavit states.

Naranjo then entered the bar again at 4:21 a.m., this time with a sheet over his head that didn’t cover his face and unsuccessfully tried to open the registers a second time, the affidavit states.

In both cases, his face, hair, tattoos and clothing were visible on the video, according to the document.

Naranjo showed up at the jail lobby at 3:44 a.m. Friday looking for his backpack wearing the same clothing he wore in the Bootsy Bellows video, according to the affidavit.

In court Wednesday, Naranjo told District Judge Chris Seldin he’d been using “I.V. drugs for over two months” and that he’s trying to go “cold turkey” so he didn’t want to be released from jail.

Prosecutor Don Nottingham said Naranjo was on parole, which means he could face between four and 12 years in prison if convicted of burglary. Naranjo has been previously convicted of burglary, trespassing, felony menacing, aggravated motor vehicle theft, DUI and other violations. The judge heeded Nottingham’s request to set a $50,000 cash-only bond.

Seldin sentenced Naranjo in January 2018 to 18 months in a prison-alternative program in Garfield County after he pleaded guilty to stealing a car in October 2017. His lawyer at the time said he stole the vehicle because of a “deep-seated phobia of bears” and needed a place to sleep that was safe from them.


Stark differences surface at Aspen rape sentencings of Callahan, Henley

Monday’s sentencing of a Woody Creek teen who pleaded guilty to violently raping two local girls presented two starkly different points of view.

On one side was prosecutor Don Nottingham, who said Henry Henley, 18, was a dishonest, deceitful and violent sex offender with an anti-social personality disorder who will likely fail to complete the sweetheart plea deal he accepted last month. Henley’s victims, by contrast, are courageous heroines who came forward to stop future sexual assaults, he said.

“(The first girl who reported Henley’s actions) is a hero,” Nottingham said. “And the other young women who came forward in this case are heroes.”

Henley’s lawyer, Trent Trani of Denver, had a different take on the situation.

He first talked about how “people including teenage girls” make false rape statements to police and that to disregard the possibility of that in this case “is not the correct thing to do.”

Furthermore, mandatory minimum sentences associated with the sex assault charges Henley faced made it impossible to go to trial and challenge the veracity of the victims’ accounts and examine their sexual histories, Trani said. He couldn’t gamble on Henley’s future when he was facing between 55 years and life in prison, Trani said.

Henley was ultimately failed by Aspen schools, Aspen police, the Aspen District Attorney’s Office and psychiatrists since he was 6 years old and diagnosed as having attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, Trani said.

Finally, he tore into Aspen parents and society in general.

“This city has some serious issues,” Trani said. “The children in this city run amok. There’s rampant drug use. The sex these kids are having in these high schools. I was amazed.”

Without some deep civic reflection, “this is not the last time a case like this will be in this courtroom,” he said.

Henley pleaded guilty in August to felony second-degree assault in which he admitted to using his hands as a deadly weapon. That plea is related to allegations that he restrained and choked a 16-year-old girl before sexually assaulting her. He also pleaded guilty to felony sexual assault using force on another victim.

In exchange for the pleas, Nottingham agreed to drop 15 other counts related to those two cases and two others. He said Monday he offered the plea because of Henley’s young age and to save the victims from the traumatic experience of testifying at trial.

Henley was sentenced to the Colorado Department of Corrections Youthful Offender System for five years. Assuming he successfully completes that program, he will face a minimum of 20 years of probation and a maximum of life. During the probationary period, he must take part in intensive sex offender probation and register as a sex offender for the rest of his life. He cannot ever have any contact with any of the victims in the case.

If Henley violates his probation, his probation sentence could be converted to a prison sentence, District Judge Chris Seldin said.

Henley did not speak in court Monday on the advice of his lawyer. And while Trani blamed nearly everyone but his client for Monday’s outcome, he did acknowledge that Henley might be somewhat responsible.

“Mr. Henley understands he’s not perfect,” Trani said. “He has some work to do and he knows that.”

Keegan Callahan, Henley’s co-defendant, also was sentenced Monday. He pleaded guilty earlier this month to sexual exploitation of a child and second-degree assault — both felonies — as well as two misdemeanor counts of unlawful sexual contact.

Callahan, 21, was sentenced to 14 years in prison, which will be followed by five years of parole as part of his plea deal. He also will be required to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life. Callahan didn’t speak in court Monday, either.

Abe Hutt, Callahan’s Denver-based lawyer, also bemoaned the mandatory sentencing laws that he said treated his client the same as a first-degree murderer. He said both defendants and the victims in the case all had mental health issues long before they ever met, and that labeling one side heroes and the other evil will ensure similar case continue to appear.

Hutt also brought up sex by Aspen teens.

“If the court knew what kind of consensual sexual behavior was taking place by (these) teens and (Callahan), you would lose your breath,” he said.

Both teenage victims spoke in court Monday before the two defendants were sentenced.

“What he did I can never forgive,” one said to Henley. “Goodbye, Henry. I do hope the world isn’t kind to you.”

The second victim told Henley that he and Callahan wounded them deeply.

“They don’t know what they took from us — from not just me but everyone,” she said.

The first victim told Callahan that people always told her to stay away from him, but she didn’t immediately realize why. The second victim said people told her Callahan was a bad person, but she didn’t believe it.

She said that when Henley assaulted her, she asked Callahan, who was present in the room, to help her.

“You just looked at your phone and ignored me,” she said tearfully.

After the Monday’s court proceeding, the first victim said that hearing Trani cast doubt on her story was “really frustrating.” She said she doesn’t want anything from Henley and Callahan and wouldn’t have chosen to go through such a terrible experience.

“It kind of invalidates everything I’ve gone through,” she said. “None of us wanted to deal with it, but at a certain point, we have to.”


Men arrested in child solicitation sting appear in court

A firefighter. An antiques dealer. An accountant. A volunteer.

Most of the men accused of soliciting child prostitution in a sting last week have no criminal record.

Seven of the nine people charged as a result of the sting operation in Garfield County, which created online posts advertising sex with children, appeared in court Monday for their first hearing.

Glenwood Springs antique dealer Scott Fetzer, 60, was advised on the charges in a closed courtroom on Friday. The Post Independent previously reported on his Thursday arrest.

One man accused of soliciting sex with a child is Jan Blewett, 35 of Crested Butte, who is a firefighter with the Colorado River Fire Protection District and works part time with the Crested Butte Fire Department.

“I think we were as shocked as anyone,” said Sean Caffrey, CEO of Crested Butte Fire.

Blewett has worked part-time with Crested Butte fire for one year, and was a volunteer for 13 years before that.

The allegations that Blewett solicited sex with a child through undercover operatives “do not represent (Colorado River Fire’s) values or mission or our members’ unwavering commitment to providing high quality emergency services to the communities we serve,” Colorado River Fire Chief Randy Callahan said in a statement.

Colorado River Fire will conduct an internal investigation, Callahan said. Blewett has worked for that district since 2012.

Blewett is on unpaid administrative leave from both fire districts.

In addition to the solicitation charge, Blewett may also be charged with the felony obscene communications.

From Thursday to Saturday morning, nine individuals allegedly communicated with the undercover agents to negotiate prices for sex with children. When they showed up at the meeting place, allegedly to engage in the criminal offense, they were arrested, Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario said Saturday.

“We’re glad we can make these arrests, but we’re sad this exists in the community in the first place,” Vallario said.

The details of the charges are still unclear, and court records were unavailable. The Ninth District Court has not released arrest warrant information.

Public defender Scott Troxel, who advised all seven men who appeared in court Monday while in custody, said his office had not even received the arrest documents.

Magistrate Susan Ryan said the documents were no longer sealed, as the suppression order in the cases, designed to protect the ongoing law enforcement activity, expired Saturday morning at 1 a.m.

Another man, Mingma Sherpa, 51, told Magistrate Ryan during advisements Monday that he works with Habitat for Humanity ReStore in Eagle, and helps low-income people find housing.

Ryan imposed mandatory protection orders on all the accused men that forbids them from having contact with children under the age of 18.

Sherpa was not the only defendant with children, but he requested allowance to see his two children. He said he has two children, 17 and 14 years old.

“It’s disturbing that the solicitation charges are for someone the same age as his son,” Ninth District deputy prosecutor Graham Jackson said of the allegations against Sherpa in court.

Ryan also imposed cash bonds for all the suspects, and denied personal recognizance bonds, which do not require an inmate to pay before being released.

Another man accused of the same charges was Rifle resident Brian Alvarez, who said he understood that the personal recognizance bond was out of the question.

“I‘ve been in the community for five years. I have family. They are here (in court) to support me,” Alvarez said. “I would like the cash bond to not cripple them.”

According to Alvarez’ public Facebook profile, he works as an accountant and is a Colorado Mountain College graduate.

One of the accused men, Guillermo Carreon-Salinas, 31, was on probation at the time of the sting, Jackson said. The others had limited criminal records.


Sting operation catches nine accused of soliciting a child prostitution in Garfield County

A sting operation in Garfield County involving federal, state and local law enforcement resulted in nine arrests on suspicion of soliciting child prostitution.

Working undercover in cooperation with state prosecutors and local law enforcement agencies, the Department of Homeland Security created posts online where potential predators visit to advertise sex with children, Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario told the Glenwood Springs Post Independent.

From Thursday to Saturday morning, nine individuals communicated with the undercover agents and allegedly negotiated prices to purchase sex with children.

When the individuals showed up to allegedly engage in sex with a child, they were arrested.

“It’s pretty graphic and disgusting,” Vallario said.

Vallario credited Carbondale Police Chief Gene Schilling with bringing up the idea to law enforcement partners.

“Solicitation for child prostitution is common and victimizes the most innocent and vulnerable of all, our children,” Schilling said in a statement. “We are glad we were able to arrest these people before they had the chance to further their criminal actions.”

“It’s kind of a double-edged sword,” Vallario said. “We’re glad we can make these arrests, but we’re sad this exists in the community in the first place,” he added.

On the first night of the sting, only one person, Scott Fetzer, showed up and was arrested.

Seven more suspects showed up allegedly seeking sex with children Friday evening, and one arranged to meet Saturday morning, Vallario said.

Most of the nine people arrested are from Garfield County, and are being held in custody.

The arrests included a Glenwood Springs antiques dealer — Fetzer — in a case previously reported by the Post Independent after his Thursday arrest.

One person, Shekeyah Jackson, 26, of Aurora, is charged with prostitution and was released on a summons.

Eight people were arrested on suspicion of soliciting for child prostitution, and are being held in the Garfield County jail, according to the sheriff’s office.

Scott V. Fetzer, 60, of Glenwood Springs

Brian Alvarez, 29, of Glenwood Springs

Luis M. Noj-Pich, 33, of Rifle

Jose G. Cardenas, 39, of Rifle

Guillermo Carreon-Salinas, 31, of Rifle

Manuel Nava-Mauro, 26, of Carbondale

Mingma O. Sherpa, 51, of Avon

Jan Blewett, 35, of Crested Butte

Vallario said Garfield County has done similar stings in years past, and similar stings could occur at any time.

“We could do another one next week, next year, or two years down the road,” Vallario said.

Vallario noted that while nine people were caught in this operation, an unknown number of crimes against children occur without being prosecuted.

“It’s eye-opening, heartbreaking. The average person out there in the community doesn’t think this happens, but it does,” Vallario said.


Rifle resident convicted of vehicular manslaughter, out on bond, skips sentencing

Cody Christopher, convicted by jury of vehicular manslaughter in June, failed to appear for his sentencing hearing Friday and is now wanted on $50,000 cash-only bond.

Christopher, 41, was out on bond throughout his trial.

“I’m disappointed the defendant did not appear. I sincerely hope he is alright,” Ninth District Judge John Neiley said Friday.

At 9:15 a.m., Neiley entered the courtroom and noted Christopher’s absence.

“Obviously, we can’t proceed without him here,” Neiley said.

Ann Roan, an attorney representing Christopher at the hearing, said she thought Christopher was going to be there. Roan also said she didn’t know where her client was.

Neiley said he would give him some more time to arrive, in case Christopher was stuck in construction traffic.

“I don’t think that should be a valid excuse,” Ninth District deputy prosecutor Sarah Nordgaard said.

Christopher was likely coming from Rifle, Nordgaard said, and would not be affected by ongoing construction in south Glenwood Springs.

“There are plenty of people who made it here,” Nordgaard added, referring to more than 20 of Christopher’s friends and supporters, many of whom attended the trial.

Neiley reconvened the hearing at 9:40, and issued the bench warrant for Christopher’s arrest.

Christopher was convicted of vehicular homicide for crashing a Ford Excursion while intoxicated Dec. 29, 2017, killing Matt Smith, then 41, and Trent Johnson, then 36.

Johnson’s son, then 10 years old, was severely injured in the crash.

In his testimony at the trial, Christopher maintained that he was not drunk at the time of the crash, but drank heavily after hiking from the site of the crash, along Puma Paw Road north of Rifle, to a ranch house with the 10-year-old survivor.

Christopher also suffered a head injury in the crash.

Christopher’s sentencing hearing was initially scheduled on a docket day, Aug. 22, where there would be limited time for the hearing.

Christopher’s defense attorney requested an “off-docket” hearing, because they wanted to schedule more time to present evidence at sentencing.

Neiley noted that he was willing to listen to any and all friends or family of Christopher who wanted to speak regarding the sentencing.

Defense attorney Roan declined further comment, as did several friends of Christopher.


Cocaine charges dismissed against Lipseys due to lack of evidence

A charge of distribution of cocaine to a minor filed against a wealthy Aspen businessman and father was dismissed by a prosecutor late last week, according to court records.

Joseph Lipsey III, 56, and his wife, Shira Lipsey, were both charged earlier this summer with the offense, which carried a mandatory minimum prison term of eight years and a maximum of 32 years upon conviction. District Judge Chris Seldin granted the dismissal Monday, according to Pitkin County District Court records.

“We’re glad the District Attorney’s Office followed through on their in-court comments,” said Yale Galanter, Lipsey’s attorney. “They got to further investigate the charge and we’re happy they agreed there’s nothing to substantiate that count against Joe and Shira Lipsey.”

Aspen prosecutor Don Nottingham declined to comment Wednesday on the dismissal. However, during a July 15 court hearing, Nottingham said there wasn’t enough evidence to support the most serious charge filed against the couple.

The Lipseys still each face three felony counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor and three misdemeanor counts of serving alcohol to minors. The charges stem from parties held at the Lipsey home near Aspen Highlands in which minors were allegedly allowed to consume alcohol.

The distribution of cocaine charge to a minor allegedly stemmed from Snapchat photos sent out by a 17-year-old that implied the parents might have given him cocaine, according to court documents. A teenage witness also told police he saw the 17-year-old ingest cocaine while at least one of the Lipseys was present, the documents state.

However, on July 15, Nottingham said that while probable cause initially existed to charge the couple with the cocaine distribution count, investigators were unable to run down details from witnesses that provided a good chance of conviction at trial.

The couple’s son, Joseph Lipsey IV, has been charged of two counts of felony distribution of drugs, felony contributing to the delinquency of a minor, four counts of possession of a controlled substance and other misdemeanor charges. He also is facing two counts of felony vehicular assault after crashing his parents’ Tesla with four other teenagers in the car in November.

Man arrested with 100lb of meth has no prior record

Edgar Esquivel-Tecalco

The man caught with nearly $1 million worth of methamphetamine during a traffic stop Monday has no criminal history, according to court records.

Colorado State Patrol pulled over Edgar Esquivel-Tecalco, 33, around 12:30 p.m. Monday near Glenwood Springs after a trooper observed him making unsafe lane changes and using a cellphone mounted on the windshield while along Interstate 70 and following other vehicles too closely.

The trooper said the car was speeding 5-9 miles over the speed limit.

After pulling him over at the Kum & Go gas station in West Glenwood, the trooper returned Esquivel’s license, registration and insurance documents, with “a verbal warning for the traffic violations,” according to court documents.

Esquivel said he was traveling from California to Denver to purchase a new car.

“I told (Esquivel) I had one other question for him,” the trooper wrote in the arrest affidavit.

The trooper gave Esquivel a written search consent form to sign, and asked if he understood it.

“After he signed the consent form I again asked him if he understood the form and agreed to it. He said yes,” the trooper wrote.

Investigators began searching the Honda minivan, and found bricks of methamphetamine in all four of the car’s interior door panels.

In total, law enforcement found 62 bricks that tested positive for methamphetamine, weighing 93 pounds in total, according to the affidavit.

The amount of methamphetamine seized “could be the largest in Garfield County,” Sheriff Lou Vallario said, but he doesn’t keep track of all the seizures.

Esquivel faces up to 32 years and a potential $1 million fine if convicted of unlawful distribution of a schedule 1 drug, a class 1 felony.

Ninth District prosecutor Tony Hershey said he is concerned the defendant will not appear in court if he can post bond, set Monday at $150,000 cash or surety.

Prosecutors asked for a $1 million bond, the estimated street value of the methamphetamine Esquivel was allegedly transporting. Despite not having a criminal record and having no failures to appear in court, Hershey urged a higher bond to ensure Esquivel would make it to court.

“If this defendant is able to post bond and leaves this state, we are never going to see him again,” Hershey said in a court hearing Tuesday.

Hershey said he is not certain of Esquivel’s immigration status, or what contacts he has in California, where he lives.

Ninth District Judge Denise Lynch said the amount of drugs found in the car represented a “huge risk to community and the country at large.”

The $150,000 cash or surety bond is commensurate with similar drug trafficking offenses, Lynch said.

As condition of the bond, Lynch ordered that Esquivel is not allowed to leave Colorado until his next court date Sept. 18.


Red Brick embezzler out of jail, agrees to pay back $125k she stole from city of Aspen

Convicted embezzler Angie Callen, who admitted in July that she stole from Aspen taxpayers as the executive director of the Red Brick Council for the Arts, has committed to paying back the $125,000 she stole.

Beginning on Nov. 15, Callen will pay $1,000 a month toward the restitution she owes, said David Rousseau, financial collections officer in the 9th Judicial District.

“She seems willing to do something,” he said last week, noting that Callen contacted him after being released from custody last month.

With court fines and fees, the total amount Callen owed is just over $128,400.

Callen paid $50,000 in May, when she pleaded guilty to felony theft.

Callen must begin her 140 hours of public service next week, according to the conditions of her sentence, which stipulate that she start that work within one month after being released from custody.

Callen was ordered straight to the Pitkin County Jail on July 1 when District Court Judge Chris Seldin sentenced her to 90 days.

She served 47 days and was released Aug. 16 for good behavior, time served and attending classes and counseling.

Pitkin County Jail Commander Jill Vallario said state statute allows for inmates to serve only 60% of their sentence if jail officials determine it’s warranted.

“People might not want to hear this but she was a model inmate and caused no issues,” Vallario said. “Unless they are a problem child, they get that earned time and she earned that time based on state statute.”

Jackie Kasabach, the former president of the Red Brick Council board of directors when the allegations against Callen emerged, said Friday that she’s glad to see that restitution will get paid, but she believes it was too light of a sentence.

“I believe in time off for good behavior but she had a relative cush sentence,” she said. “She should have spent 90 days in jail with work release.”

Callen’s actions led the city, which owns the Red Brick building, to terminate its contract with the Red Brick Council, a nonprofit that managed the operation.

The city’s Parks and Recreation Department now runs the Red Brick Center for the Arts under Sarah Roy.

“What (Callen) did was destroy a 25-year tradition,” Kasabach said of the relationship between the council and the city.

Callen declined to comment on the record Friday.

As part of her plea agreement, prosecutors dropped the felony charges of committing cyber crimes, embezzlement of public property and identity theft.

Callen is on five years of supervised probation, under which she cannot harass, intimidate or retaliate against the victim or witnesses.


Alleged sexually explicit texts key evidence in case involving Basalt High School teacher

Sexually explicit texts allegedly sent by Basalt High School teacher Brittany von Stein to one of her students advanced a police investigation that resulted in an arrest Wednesday, according to a court document.

Von Stein, 26, the music teacher and choir director at Basalt High School, allegedly was sexting with the student while he was hanging out with friends one night, according to an affidavit for an arrest warrant for von Stein. The student fell asleep and his friends read the texts, said the affidavit filed by Thomas Wright, a school resource police officer with Basalt Police Department. The date that the boys spent the night together wasn’t revealed. The affidavit said it was the same day as a memorial service for a student at Basalt High School.

One of the boys told Wright about the texts on Aug. 29. That juvenile “said they saw messages from Ms. von Stein talking about kissing and sex,” Wright’s affidavit said. “(The source) said the next morning, the entire group confronted (the student). (He) admitted that the texts were from Ms. von Stein. He further admitted to having an ongoing sexual relationship with Ms. von Stein.”

The alleged victim asked the other boys to “keep it a secret,” the affidavit said.

Wright’s affidavit said he disclosed the apparent existence of the texts to a prosecutor and they made plans to obtain a search warrant to confiscate the victim’s smartphone.

The iPhone proved to be a turning point in the investigation. Wright wrote that the investigation began earlier, on Aug. 14, but the alleged victim repeatedly denied having sex with von Stein.

The investigation began when Basalt High School Principal Peter Mueller and Roaring Fork School District Superintendent Rob Stein called Basalt officers to report that von Stein had disclosed to them that one of her students, a juvenile male, had kissed her during a private vocal lesson.

“Ms. von Stein reported this incident occurred at the Basalt High School sometime in January,” the affidavit said. “Ms. von Stein disclosed she had been hearing rumors accusing her of having sex with (the student).”

The school administrators requested an investigation into the matter as soon as possible.

Wright wrote that he started his investigation the next day. Aug. 15, with an interview of the student. His workload at school required him to have private vocal lessons with von Stein.

“(The student) said that during one of those private lessons, he kissed Ms. von Stein,” the affidavit said. “He said she told him that no one could ever know that happened; it would have to be their secret.”

The student acknowledged he flirted with von Stein via texts and although she didn’t flirt back initially, she eventually became “very personal with him through text.”

The student told Wright there were rumors he was having sex with von Stein, but that it wasn’t true. He admitted he might have bragged to friends while intoxicated about having sex with her.

“I asked (the student) if he was still communicating with Ms. von Stein via text. He said yes,” the affidavit said. “He said he even warned her that he had told his parents they kissed. (The student) said Ms. von Stein text(ed) him back saying she would have to tell the principals.”

Wright also spoke to the mother of the student and learned a friend of hers warned her that her son was having sex with the teacher. The mother said she confronted her son but he said he and von Stein had only kissed.

Wright said he arranged for the student to be interviewed at River Bridge, a child advocacy center in Glenwood Springs. At that interview, the student also denied having sex with von Stein.

Wright learned on the same day that the student’s friends had seen the alleged texts from von Stein and had confronted him. Wright was able to obtain the student’s phone from his mother.

On Aug. 30, the student met with Wright at Basalt High School and asked if could have his phone back if he told Wright “what really happened between him and Ms. von Stein.” Wright said that prosecutors would have to make the decision about the phone but he asked the student to tell him the truth anyway.

“(The student) explained in detail that he had been having an ongoing sexual relationship with Ms. von Stein” in January and February 2019, the affidavit said. “(The student) said all of the sexual contact with Ms. von Stein occurred at her home” in Carbondale.

“I was able to document at least three separate encounters that (the student) said von Stein had sexual intercourse with him,” Wright’s affidavit said.

The student said his phone contained texts that detailed their sexual relationship.

On Aug. 30, Wright interviewed three additional students who confirmed they saw texts from von Stein to their friend on the night they were all together and he fell asleep. They allegedly confirmed that they confronted the student and he fessed up about the relationship.

Basalt Police Department filed for the arrest warrant on Tuesday. Pitkin County District Judge Chris Seldin signed it Wednesday. Law enforcement officials also obtained a search warrant for von Stein’s home in Carbondale. Basalt and Carbondale police officers and an investigator with the 9th Judicial District Attorney’s Office went to the house Wednesday afternoon. Von Stein was arrested on three counts of sexual assault on a child by one in a position of trust, a Class 3 felony. She was taken to Garfield County Jail and was released at about 8:45 p.m. after posting a $10,000 bond.

Deputy District Attorney Steve Mallory said Thursday that von Stein was cooperating with officials. “She was in the process of turning herself in,” he said.

No formal charges have been filed yet against von Stein. Her first court appearance is scheduled Sept. 18.

Von Stein hired the firm of Kalamaya Goscha to represent her. Michael Fox, an associate attorney with the firm, released this statement Thursday: “We are continuing to investigate this case, but it is clear that there is more to this story than what’s been previously reported,” the statement read. “Brittany is innocent until her guilt is proven beyond a reasonable doubt. She appreciates the community support she has received. Out of respect for the judicial process and the ongoing investigation, we will not be commenting further.”

Von Stein has been on leave from her post as choir director since the beginning of the school year. Stein, the superintendent, sent a letter to parents on Thursday alerting them about the arrest of von Stein and stating the district is working to find a full-time replacement.

“While we are following due process to terminate her employment, we are also required to remind parents that under state and federal law, a person charged with a crime is presumed innocent until proven guilty,” Stein’s letter said.

The letter later continued, “We recognize that our community, especially students, will be feeling a range of emotions. Some of those feelings might include anger, disappointment, betrayal, sadness, and confusion. If your student is having difficulty processing their emotions, please contact the school and one of our counseling staff members will meet with your child.”


Basalt choir teacher arrested on charge of alleged sexual contact with student

A teacher at Basalt High School was arrested Wednesday on a charge of alleged sexual contact with a minor, according to booking records at Garfield County Jail.

Brittany Marie von Stein, 26, of Carbondale, was charged with sexual assault on a child by one in a position of trust, a felony, a jailer in the booking office said. She was released after posting a $10,000 bond Wednesday evening.

Von Stein was taken to the jail Wednesday afternoon after an arrest on a warrant, according to the jailer. No information was immediately available on the circumstances of von Stein’s arrest.

Von Stein, who leads the choir programs, is a resident of Carbondale, which is why she was booked into Garfield County Jail.

The Basalt Police Department was leading the investigation of von Stein as of last week after receiving information from the Roaring Fork School District and an individual regarding a possible relationship between the teacher and a student at the school, Police Chief Greg Knott previously said. He declined to identify the teacher last week.

On Wednesday, Knott referred all inquiries to the 9th Judicial District Attorney’s Office. A prosecutor did not return a message left Wednesday from The Aspen Times.

Roaring Fork School District Rob Stein said last week that von Stein was on leave for reasons that he wouldn’t discuss because it was a personnel matter. He said she would be replaced if she were unable to meet conditions necessary to return to her position this month.

“We need to know that no district policies have been violated in a major way or, if even in a minor way, we’ll have to take a look at that,” Stein said Friday.

He wouldn’t discuss the nature of the potential policy violation.

Brittany Marie von Stein

Von Stein was highly regarded after joining the Basalt schools in 2015 and heading the choir programs at the high school and middle school. She was credited with a drastic increase in the number of students participating in the program. As it grew, she focused on teaching at the high school.

Von Stein received the 2018 Outstanding Young Educator Award from the Colorado Music Educators Association.

“This prestigious honor is given annually to music educators in their first five years of teaching who have shown significant proficiency in the classroom and respect in their school community,” the education association said at the time.

Von Stein graduated from Ohio State University in 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in music education and minors in vocal performance and theater.