Appeals court reverses judge on hostage-taker charges

The Colorado Court of Appeals ruled Thursday that an Aspen District Court judge erred this winter when he decided what charges a Colorado Springs man should face for allegedly taking three men hostage last summer.

The three charges District Judge Chris Seldin either reduced or dismissed against Brolin McConnell – including attempted first-degree murder and two counts of attempted first-degree kidnapping – were reinstated, according to the opinion written by Judge Laurie Booras.

“In (reinstating the charges), we do not address whether defendant is ultimately guilty of any crime, rather we hold only that the People presented sufficient evidence to establish probable cause that defendant committed the dismissed counts, and the court should have bound them over for trial,” according to the opinion, which the other two judges on the appeals court concurred with.

Seldin ruled in February that one of the two attempted first-degree murder charges lodged against McConnell by the District Attorney’s Office should instead be reduced to attempted reckless manslaughter. That charge related specifically to shots McConnell allegedly fired near the head and feet of hostage Blake Ramelb, which were witnessed by a Pitkin County sheriff’s deputy.

“If McConnell had wanted to actually shoot Ramelb at this range, he could have simply held the gun up directly to Ramelb’s head and fired,” Seldin wrote at the time. “But there is no indication that, having taken two shots near Ramelb at different times that went into the ground and the air, McConnell realized he had missed his target and fired again.

“Had he wished to do so there was nothing preventing him since Ramelb remained standing right next to him.”

The Court of Appeals, however, noted that McConnell allegedly stated numerous times that he intended to kill Ramelb, and, in fact, asked him if he believed in eternity before shooting toward his head, according to the opinion.