Aspen DA: Extradition of painting suspect complex
The District Attorney’s Office has not yet determined if it wants to extradite an Englishman charged earlier this week with vandalizing a $3 million painting at an Aspen gallery a year ago.
Requesting an extradition from a foreign country — in this case England — is a long, involved and costly process, prosecutor Don Nottingham said.
“Given that the damage is to a thing that is extremely valuable — that could play into it,” he said.
The DA’s Office charged Nicholas Morley, 40, of London with felony criminal mischief late Wednesday in connection with the slashing of a $3 million painting by New York artist Christopher Wool. Morley’s father owns the painting, according to an arrest warrant affidavit filed in Pitkin County District Court. The incident occurred May 2, 2017, at an art gallery located at the base of Aspen Mountain when a slim man dressed in dark clothing and wearing a hat, sunglasses and a full beard entered, made a beeline for the large Wool painting, slashed the canvas twice with a cutting object and ran out.
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The charge against Morley — a Pitkin County District Court judge signed an arrest warrant late Wednesday ordering that the Briton be held in lieu of a $50,000 cash-only bond if arrested — came after an exhaustive, year-long investigation by Aspen Police detective Ritchie Zah. On Friday, Nottingham praised Zah’s tenacious efforts in pursuing the case, which included numerous search warrants and both national and international investigation.
“Ritchie really did a great job,” he said.
If Morley enters the United States, he will be arrested, Nottingham said. If that occurs, he and District Attorney Jeff Cheney will have to decide whether to extradite Morley from wherever he lands domestically, he said.
Nottingham said he’s reached out to Morley in an effort to negotiate his coming to Aspen to receive a felony summons and allow the case to begin moving through the system. However, that effort has yet to bear fruit.
“We haven’t reached any sort of arrangement,” he said. “The negotiations are ongoing. I have no indication if he wants to (come to Aspen) or not.”
Ryan Kalamaya, Morley’s Aspen attorney, confirmed Friday that he’s had contact with the DA’s Office about such a deal, though he declined to comment further.
The felony Morley is charged with — criminal mischief between $1,000 and $5,000 — is the lowest level felony charge in Colorado. The painting cost between $1,900 and $2,500 to repair, according to the arrest warrant affidavit.
During the lengthy investigation, Zah was able to determine that Morley flew from London to Denver under an assumed name a day before the painting slashing, rented a car in Denver under the same assumed name and flew back to London two days after the incident in Aspen.
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The Basalt Town Council voted 7-0 Tuesday night to take a first, small step to try to spur business at restaurants and retail shops. They will mail $20 vouchers to all town households.