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Pitkin County commissioners include DA raise in budget

Though he didn't ask for it, Ninth Judicial District Attorney Jeff Cheney is getting a raise this budget season, along with the rest of his employees.

Cheney told Pitkin County commissioners earlier this week that he asked for a 3.1 percent wage increase for his employees as part of his annual budget requests, and Garfield County commissioners last month felt he should be included in the raises.

"I'm not expecting that," he said Tuesday. "I didn't ask for it and I don't know that I deserve it, but I know that my team does."

Cheney must ask commissioners in Pitkin, Garfield and Rio Blanco counties — which make up the Ninth Judicial District — to approve most of his office's budget every year. The state of Colorado contributes Cheney's salary of $125,086, leaving county taxpayers in the district responsible for $3.4 million for the 2019 budget, according to a memo from Cheney to Pitkin County commissioners.

While Cheney's salary — like that of county commissioners — is set by state law, it can be increased if counties in the district approve it. Cheney's raise for 2019 would add an extra $5,156 to the overall budget, of which Pitkin County's share would be $1,105 Cheney said.

Commissioners George Newman and Rachel Richards said they supported the salary increase, while commissioner Steve Child praised Cheney's leadership as district attorney.

"I don't read about the District Attorney's Office in the newspaper all the time," Child said. "That's a good thing to me."

Overall, Cheney asked for a 1.8 percent budget increase over the office's 2018 budget, which Child noted was less than the 2018 inflation rate of 2.7 percent.

The three counties in the district, by law, divvy up the DA's budget based on population. That means Pitkin County pays 21.4 percent, Rio Blanco County contributes 7.6 percent and Garfield County puts in 71 percent.

Pitkin County's share works out to $708,698, according to Cheney's memo. Commissioners on Tuesday gave Cheney the thumbs-up to move forward with his proposed budget.

Cheney also told commissioners he wants to apply for a grant from the state for money to fight illegal marijuana cultivation but needs their permission. Commissioners said they were open to the idea, but wanted to check with other county officials, including Sheriff Joe DiSalvo, before committing.

DiSalvo said Friday he didn't know enough about the program to comment.


Vail employee allegedly slept with child prostitute in Glenwood Springs

The man charged with soliciting a minor for prostitution in Glenwood Springs is a Gypsum resident and worked for the town of Vail for more than 24 years, the Glenwood Springs Post Independent has learned.

Ronald Braden, 53, appeared in Garfield County District Court Wednesday on bond, and was released with a court protection order prohibiting him from having contact with children under 18 years of age.

Judge Denise Lynch of the 9th District also ordered Braden to remain in Colorado, unless granted permission to travel from the court, according to case documents.

Braden had led information services for the town of Vail since he was hired in June 1994, most recently holding the title of director. Braden's employment with the town of Vail officially ended Monday, a spokesperson for the town said, and he was placed on leave Oct. 24.

Braden's charges are included in a larger Colorado grand jury indictment handed down Oct. 22, alleging a prostitution ring operated out of the former Plaza Inn, which is no longer in business, in north Glenwood Springs.

The indictment charges Damara Hester, 25, and Dasjuan Goode, 30, of transporting two juveniles to Glenwood Springs in July 2017 and holding them at the hotel before driving at least one of the juveniles to a sex buyer's home to perform acts of prostitution," the indictment said.

Braden allegedly was one of those who engaged in the activities during that time. The pair put ads for the two minors online and exploited them sexually for money, according to the indictment.

On at least one occasion, Hester and/or Goode "took advantage of the minors held in the hotel. According to the indictment, Braden "met the juvenile at a hotel/motel in Glenwood Springs and paid money to engage in sexual intercourse with her."

He is charged with four felony counts, including soliciting for child prostitution, pandering of a child, patronizing a prostituted child and contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

A defense attorney for Braden, Alaurice Tafoya-Modi, said "Mr. Braden looks forward to addressing the allegations in a court of law."

Hester remains in custody at the Garfield County Jail with bail set at $50,000. Goode was arrested Oct. 25 and is currently being held in Brighton with bond set at $100,000, according to Adams County Sheriff records.

Ninth District prosecutors have filed to have Goode transferred from the Adams County Jail to face the charges in Garfield County, Assistant District Attorney Ben Sollars said.


Rifle racial harassment case goes to mediation program

A woman accused of racially motivated harassment has the chance to resolve the allegation and potentially avoid formal charges.

Linda Dwire of Rifle was charged with two counts of bias-motivated harassment, a Class 1 misdemeanor, after an Oct. 1 incident at City Market in Rifle, which was partially captured on video and viewed millions of times online and was picked up by national in international media outlets.

In a court appearance Monday, District Attorney Jeff Cheney announced that Dwire would apply to go through a diversion program to potentially resolve the misdemeanor charges.

According to the Rifle Police Department, Dwire allegedly approached two women who were conversing in Spanish and asked them whether they lived in the country. Another woman, Kamira Trent, stepped in to confront Dwire and can be heard in the video telling Dwire to "leave these women alone" and threatening to call the police.

Dwire told an officer after she was briefly handcuffed that she told two women to speak English and be "American," according to a police affidavit.

Trent told the Glenwood Springs Post Independent after the court hearing Monday that she is supportive of the process, and expects to be involved in the conversations.

"We're going to get to talk to each other, and the outcome that I'm looking for, that I sincerely hope for, is that Linda Dwire is apologetic and sorry for what she did, and I hope she never does it again," Trent said.

Cheney said that Isabel Nava Marin, one of the women who Dwire allegedly confronted, is in communication with the District Attorney's Office about the process. The other woman involved is Fabiola Velasquez. The Post Independent has not been able to reach either alleged victim.

Cheney said diversion is like a detour from the court process. The charges may be dropped only if the process is completed to the satisfaction of the district attorney.

Cheney also noted that the charges against Dwyer only amount to allegations.

After an assessment with diversion program coordinators, Dwire will be presented with a set of actions to complete. Sometimes that action includes mediation, community service and participation in a restorative justice panel, among other things.

"I think some of it is up in the air," Cheney said of what Dwire's program might be. "I do expect some acknowledgment of potential harm, and some repair work to come out of the diversion program," Cheney said.

Dwire told the Post Independent in a post-hearing interview that she has concerns about illegal immigration, but wants to go into the diversion program expecting a good outcome.

"I'm going to go through this program with an open mind. I'm going to put everything I can into it to make it positive and make it better," Dwire said.

"Even in the situation that I'm in now, I can learn something from it, and I will come out a better person for it. I will learn a lot of good things from it," Dwire said.

Dwire is scheduled to reappear in court Dec. 5 to give an update on the diversion process.

A preliminary hearing to determine if evidence exists to charge a local teen with raping and choking a high school girl this summer will take place in January in District Court.

A District Judge also will decide at that time whether the 17-year-old will be tried as an adult or a juvenile in that case, which was originally charged last month.

The 17-year-old – who is being held in lieu of a $100,000 cash-only bond at a Grand Junction juvenile detention facility – appeared in court Monday for the first time since Oct. 15. Dressed in a suit, he did not say anything as he sat next to his new lawyer, M. Trent Trani of Denver.

The teen also was charged Friday with raping and choking a second high school girl this summer and sexually assaulting a 5-year-old two years ago. Those two newly filed cases also will be addressed Jan. 10, the day of the preliminary hearing.

The second high school girl told police the 17-year-old choked her to the point of passing out in his bedroom in July before forcing her to take her clothes off and raping her, according to an affidavit filed Friday in District Court.

The teen's co-defendant in the first case – Keegan Callahan, 20, of Aspen – was allegedly present in the room when the second girl was assaulted, the affidavit states. Callahan was also charged with sexually assaulting the same girl at the Aspen Recreation Center, though that alleged attack took place at a different time, according to the affidavit.

The alleged incident with the 5-year-old took place two years ago but wasn't reported by the girl's grandmother at the time. The allegation re-surfaced this summer and was investigated by the Pitkin County Sheriff's Office before 17-year-old was charged Friday in that case.

The details surrounding the first alleged rape – in which the two young men each face nine counts of sexual assault – remain unknown because District Judge Chris Seldin sealed most documents filed in connection with it. But on Monday, Seldin indicated he was likely to unseal them soon because the victim in the case has already spoken publicly and prosecutors did not ask to seal the affidavit in the second case.

"It's not clear if it's appropriate to keep in the seal in place," Seldin said. "But I think we need to look toward getting the files unsealed."

Prosecutor Don Nottingham said he would speak today with other members of law enforcement involved in the case about unsealing that case. Trani asked that the case remain sealed for at least another week.

Callahan is scheduled for a preliminary hearing Nov. 14 in the first case filed last month. He did not appear in court Monday and continues to be held in the Pitkin County Jail in lieu of a $100,000 cash-only bond.

In other court news Monday:

• A 24-year-old Aspen man pleaded guilty to felony assault and misdemeanor harassment for a drunken scene he caused at a local bar in June.

Dwayne Johnson entered the pleas in exchange for a two-year deferred sentence, meaning the felony charge will be stricken from his record if he successfully completes two years of supervised probation

Johnson challenged a bartender to a fight, spit on a doorman, then swung at a police officer and hurled racial insults at him. Johnson was almost immediately remorseful for his actions and wrote a letter apologizing to the officer the next day, Nottingham said.

Johnson must abstain from drugs and alcohol during the two years on probation and must complete 24 hours of community service.

• A Snowmass Village man will spend the next two years on probation after pleading guilty Monday to stealing a golf cart this summer and driving drunk.

Davis Henschel, 20, entered the pleas in exchange for a deferred sentence on the felony aggravated motor vehicle theft charge. The charge will be wiped from his record if he successfully completes the probation period.

Henschel must remain drug and alcohol free during those two years and complete 96 hours of community service.

"Sounds like a dumb drunk stunt," District Judge Chris Seldin said.


Update: Aspen Police hear from person of interest after images in alleged assault case posted online

After releasing surveillance images Sunday morning of two "people of interest" concerning an alleged assault Thursday, Aspen police got a call from the man in the photo who is expected to meet with police Monday.

Police were asking for the public's help to identify two people who were seen early Thursday morning after a man was allegedly assaulted sometime after attending Halloween celebrations in downtown Aspen.

Sunday morning, police released images from a surveillance camera that show a man and woman who the police wanted to speak with. By Sunday evening, the "male in the photo called and wanted to come in and talk," Aspen Police Sgt. Rick Magnuson said Sunday night. "We are talking with him Monday."

The victim was found in the alley behind Mi Chola restaurant just after 2 a.m. when employees were taking out the trash, and they called 911. The man, who has not been identified by police, was taken to Aspen Valley Hospital but after being examined was transported to St. Mary's Hospital in Grand Junction. Doctors in Aspen told police the man had sustained injuries consistent with an assault, investigators said late last week.

Magnuson said Sunday the victim had serious injuries and remained in the Grand Junction hospital as of Saturday. Magnuson said the victim has been interviewed by Grand Junction police.

"For us, it's a really important case. It's very rare we get these kind of violent assaults here so we're putting a lot of resources into locating these persons of interest," Magnuson said.

According to police, the victim was seen in the restaurant earlier in the evening during the police's routine checks and did not have any problems.

Man found in Aspen alley suffered assault

An Aspen man was taken to a Grand Junction hospital early Thursday morning after he was found in an alley behind a downtown bar with injuries consistent with being assaulted, police said.

The man — who was not identified by Aspen police — was found in the alley behind Mi Chola by employees of the restaurant who were taking out the trash, said Aspen police Officer Braulio Jerez. The employees called emergency dispatchers about 2:10 a.m.

Jerez, who was nearby, arrived on scene soon after and found the man – in his mid-to-late-30s – laying on the ground in a semi-conscious state and speaking incoherently, he said. The man smelled of alcohol and had a trickle of blood coming out of his left nostril, though there weren't any overt signs of assault, Jerez said.

The man was transported to Aspen Valley Hospital, where a doctor later told officers the man had suffered head trauma consistent with an assault, he said. He was later taken by ambulance to a hospital in Grand Junction, Jerez said.

Jerez said he saw the man earlier in the night standing at the Mi Chola bar during routine downtown patrols, and he seemed fine.

"He was literally dancing," he said.

Staff at Mi Chola were calling the man by name when Jerez arrived in the alley, though none reported him getting into any altercations with other patrons Wednesday night, Jerez said. Staff did not know what time the man left the restaurant, he said.

Aspen police are investigating the incident as a crime and are checking nearby video surveillance in an attempt to trace the man's movements Wednesday night and early Thursday morning, said Aspen police Sgt. Chip Seamans. Evidence collected at the scene also might shed some light on what happened, he said.


Grand jury indicts two for trafficking juveniles in Glenwood Springs

A woman charged with trafficking and prostituting minors in Glenwood Springs was transferred to the Garfield County Jail on Tuesday.

A Colorado grand jury indictment alleges Damara Hester, 25, and Dasjuan Goode, 30, transported two juveniles in July 2017 to the Plaza Inn on Sixth Street in Glenwood Springs and exploited the children sexually for money. The hotel has changed ownership since the alleged crimes, and is now a LaQuinta Inn and Suites.

Hester is charged with 10 felony counts, including trafficking a minor for sexual servitude and procurement of a child, keeping a place of child prostitution and contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Goode was charged on eight counts.

Between July 12 and July 27 of last year, Goode and Hester allegedly transported the two juveniles, at least one of whom was female, from Aurora to Glenwood Springs, according to the grand jury indictment handed down Oct. 22.

The indictment alleges that Hester and Goode made the juveniles commercially available for sex by posting ads online, and provided hotel rooms for prostitution.

On at least one occasion, the grand jury alleges, Hester and/or Goode "drove at least one of the juveniles to a sex buyer's home to perform acts of prostitution."

Hester also performed sex acts for money at the hotel rooms in Glenwood Springs, according to the indictment.

Ronald Braden, 53, is subsequently charged with soliciting sex from one of the juveniles, as well as from Hester, at the hotel during the time frame of the alleged crimes, and for paying for sex.

Hester was arrested in Denver and booked at the Denver Detention Center on Oct. 23, according to the Denver Sheriff's Department. It was not immediately clear where Goode and Braden were arrested. All three defendants are scheduled for court appearances in Garfield County's 9th District in November.

Jeff Cheney, 9th District attorney, was not immediately available for comment.


Basalt man suspected in high-end bike theft case back from California

A Basalt couple who apparently fled Colorado for California earlier this month after being charged in connection with an investigation into stolen, high-end mountain bikes are both back in the Roaring Fork Valley.

David Thompson, 39, was extradited from Long Beach back to Colorado, and appeared in court Wednesday in Pitkin County. Pitkin County Judge Erin Fernandez-Ely kept his bond at $50,000 cash-only after a request from a prosecutor and Thompson's desire to stay in jail, where he said he is able to remain healthy and sober.

Thompson was charged with two counts of felony theft in September after police discovered two stolen mountain bikes at the apartment complex where he lived with Elizabeth Sullivan, 33. Thompson failed to appear in Pitkin County District Court after he was charged with the felonies.

Sullivan was charged with possession of methamphetamine after police discovered the drug in her apartment while executing a search warrant related to the stolen bikes.

Both Sullivan and Thompson were arrested in Long Beach by police Oct. 1, the day Thompson was supposed to be in court in Aspen. The Long Beach charges against Thompson weren't available, though Sullivan was charged with commercial burglary, possession of methamphetamine, trespassing and other misdemeanor counts.

Sullivan was apparently released by Long Beach police and returned to Colorado on her own accord. However, Basalt police arrested her last week after she returned to her Basalt apartment, according to court documents.

"As soon as Ms. Sullivan saw us come off the elevator, she took off running to the east end of the building," according to an arrest warrant affidavit filed in Pitkin County District Court. A Basalt officer and Police Chief Greg Knott chased Sullivan and caught her in a stairwell, the affidavit states.

Sullivan was again charged with possession of a controlled substance after that arrest when the Basalt officers found pills on her, according to the affidavit.

She said in court she had every intention of dealing with her case "head-on" and apologized for her actions. District Judge Chris Seldin, however, left her bond at $50,000 cash-only.

"The inference is that the two of you fled the jurisdiction," Seldin said.

Sullivan remains in custody at the Pitkin County Jail.


FBI, other law enforcement helping in Aspen investigation into alleged sexual assaults

A slew of law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, are investigating an unspecified number of sexual assaults tied to two men charged nearly two weeks ago with one of the assaults, local officials said Tuesday.

"Two individuals were arrested (Oct. 9) on charges related to sexual assaults that occurred in Pitkin County," according to a news release from the Pitkin County Sheriff's Office and the Aspen Police Department. "Since then a number of citizens have provided information to both agencies regarding incidents that may be related."

Keegan Callahan, 20, and an unidentified 17-year-old were charged with being involved in one of the assaults. The 17-year-old has been charged as an adult, though his lawyer has filed a motion to transfer his case back to juvenile court. That matter will be considered by the court after a Nov. 5 hearing regarding bail.

A preliminary hearing is set for Nov. 14 when it will be determined if there is enough evidence against Callahan to take the case to trial.

Details of the assault, the exact charges against the two men and all other information about the case remains unavailable because a District Court judge has sealed all documents related to the case from public view.

Because of that, Pitkin County Director of Operations Alex Burchetta could not provide any other information Tuesday, including the number of sexual assaults investigators are looking into, the number of citizens who have come forward or any other details about the case.

During a hearing earlier this month, prosecutor Don Notthingham said he expected the suspects to be arrested in nearby counties for similar accusations.

Burchetta did say law enforcement has received information about other sexual assaults not related to Callahan and the 17-year-old, though he declined to release details about those cases Tuesday.

Other agencies assisting on the investigation include the FBI, the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, the Garfield County Sheriff's Office, the Eagle County Sheriff's Office and the 9th Judicial District Attorney's Office, according to the release.

Tuesday's release also encouraged anyone with information about sexual assaults related to Callahan and the 17-year-old, or any other unrelated assaults, to contact local law enforcement at 970-920-5300.

Pitkin County Sheriff Joe DiSalvo and Aspen Police Chief Richard Pryor both also urged parents to speak with their children "regarding their safety and how they can best protect themselves from sexual assault and abuse," DiSalvo said in the release.

They pointed to two events as resources for parents and children. The first was a conversation at Aspen High School on Tuesday night about supporting safe social lives. The second will occur Monday from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Aspen High School and is titled: "Ten Tips Every Parent Should Know to Protect Your Child From Sexual Abuse."

They also listed local organizations such as the Aspen Family Connections, Mind Springs Health, Response and the Aspen Hope Center as resources to provide information and counseling about sexual abuse.

"Joe and I acknowledge the community angst that can result from such crimes, and commit to working together to support victims in every way that we can under these challenging circumstances," Pryor said.


Broncos backup QB Chad Kelly arrested in trespassing case, ‘mumbling incoherently’

DENVER (AP) — Denver Broncos backup quarterback Chad Kelly was arrested Tuesday on suspicion of criminal trespass after a couple reported he came into their suburban house uninvited and sat down on their couch “mumbling incoherently,” according to court records.

General manager John Elway said the team was “very, very disappointed in Chad and the situation he put himself into” and suggested the Broncos were pondering Kelly’s future with the club.

Kelly attended a Halloween costume party hosted by Von Miller on Monday night that has long been a tradition for Broncos players and their significant others.

The Broncos were trying to figure out what happened after Kelly left the party.

“We are in the process of getting all the facts and talking to Chad, and then we’ll figure out exactly which direction we’re going to go,” Elway said on his weekly radio show on Orange & Blue 760. “When the team has a get-together, (it) is always a good thing. You like . when they get together and the camaraderie that goes along with being a team. But when you have one person that kind of puts a dent in the whole process, it’s very disappointing.

“We’re going to look into this, and look into it very seriously, because the charges are very, very serious and we understand that,” Elway said. “We will look into this and then make decisions as we go.”

The 24-year-old Kelly posted $2,500 bond Tuesday and was released. He’s due back in court Wednesday.

According to court records, a couple told police that a stranger came into their Englewood home after 1 a.m. The intruder sat down on the couch next to the woman, who was holding the couple’s young child, and was “mumbling incoherently,” according to the records.

The man yelled at the intruder to get out and hit him in the back with a vacuum tube. The homeowners showed police surveillance video of a man wearing dark pants, a white long sleeve shirt with a brown vest and a red scarf around his neck entering the front door.

The homeowner told police he thought the door was locked but police found no signs that someone had forced their way inside.

Police said they found Kelly sitting inside a black SUV parked about a block from the couple’s home. Kelly matched the couple’s description and the man later identified him as the person who came into the house, according to court documents.

Kelly’s arrest could put the second-year pro in line for discipline from the Broncos or the league, which doesn’t need a court conviction to mete out punishment for a violation of the NFL’s code of conduct.

“We are reviewing the matter,” the NFL said in an email to The Associated Press.

The Broncos chose Kelly with the final pick of the 2017 NFL draft. Although Kelly brought an attitude that had often crossed the line in college, Elway said fellow Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly personally vouched for his nephew, so Elway signed off on the selection.

Chad Kelly missed his rookie season while recovering from knee and wrist injuries, then beat out former first-round draft pick Paxton Lynch last summer to serve as the backup for starter Case Keenum.

Keenum signed a two-year, $36 million deal in March but is off to a middling start for the Broncos (3-4). He has eight touchdown passes and nine interceptions after throwing for 22 TDs with just seven interceptions last season in Minnesota, where he led the Vikings to the NFC championship.

Kelly has played just one snap, a kneel-down on the final play of the first half against the Rams two weeks ago while Keenum was being evaluated for a concussion.

On Monday, coach Vance Joseph said he’d be comfortable with Kelly at quarterback should anything happen to Keenum.

The only other quarterback on the Broncos roster is Kevin Hogan, a third-year pro from Stanford who was awarded to Denver off waivers from Washington last month.

Kelly’s spectacular college career at Ole Miss was marked by off-field slip-ups, although he hadn’t been in any trouble since the Broncos drafted him.

He was kicked off the Clemson team in 2014 after arguing with coaches during the spring game. He also was arrested after a bar fight in 2014, eventually pleading guilty to a misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct.

In October 2016, he was involved in a brawl at his brother’s high school football game in New York. He ran onto the field after his brother, Casey Kelly, apparently took a late hit and video shows several coaches restraining him on the field.

Although he didn’t play in the Senior Bowl after his final season at Ole Miss because of a right knee injury, he was in attendance all week in Mobile, Alabama, so he could talk with NFL teams about his off-field troubles.

At the time, he said being upfront about his missteps was important: “You’ve got to be honest, of course, but you’ve got to admit to what you did and you’ve got to try to convince them that you’ve learned from those mistakes and that you’re not going to make them again. The owner doesn’t want to hear about it. The GM doesn’t want to hear about what you did. They want to know if you’ve learned from it and won’t make the same mistake twice.”