Aspen developer Nikos Hecht receives probation in domestic violence case
The Aspen Times
Nikos Hecht pleaded guilty Wednesday to misdemeanor harassment in connection with a domestic violence incident involving his then-girlfriend last summer and will spend the next two years on probation.
The wealthy developer and member of a prominent Aspen family will not be allowed to consume alcohol or drugs, must undergo a substance-abuse evaluation and a domestic violence evaluation and follow all recommendations, if any, for treatment in those two areas, according to the sentence handed down by Pitkin County Judge Erin Fernandez-Ely.
In addition, Hecht, 45, must pay a fine of $750 and spend 10 hours a month for the next year doing community service, Fernandez-Ely said. He is not allowed to finish the community service early, she said.
“I apologize and feel terrible about the whole situation,” Hecht said after the judge asked him if he wanted to say he was sorry.
“I can’t imagine the embarrassment your family feels,” Fernandez-Ely said in one of many statements she made critical of Hecht and his behavior.
District Attorney Sherry Caloia told the judge she would dismiss misdemeanor charges of assault and menacing against Hecht as part of the plea deal.
The sentence came as the result of an incident at Hecht’s Owl Creek Ranch Road home in late July that prompted a 4:37 a.m. 911 call from his then girlfriend. That call ended in a hang-up, and Hecht told authorities who called back that he was having problems with his alarm.
The victim in the case later said Hecht grabbed her purse, which was slung over her shoulder, when she tried to leave his home that morning and swung her back into the room. She said she tried to grab a door handle for balance, but that Hecht pushed her, causing her to fall to the concrete floor and hit her head.
Caloia said the assault charge against Hecht was based on that alleged push, but that she had no evidence of the victim sustaining a head injury so she could not prove the assault charge beyond a reasonable doubt.
The victim also said Hecht threatened her family and dumped out jewelry from her purse and smashed it on the floor.
Evidence in the case also included video that was captured with a cellphone in a pocket so just audio was available. In it, Hecht and the victim talk about “past relationships and money” before Hecht can be heard threatening to cut the victim, according to a police report filed in court.
After that threat, “a commotion is heard, followed by gasping for breath and (the victim) begging Hecht to ‘Stop!’ … Please don’t hurt me … Please … You just choked me!,” according to the report.
On Wednesday, the Pitkin County sheriff’s deputy who initially investigated the case urged Fernandez-Ely to listen to the recording. Deputy Monique Merritt said the transcript of the incident does not provide an accurate picture of the “night of terror” the victim experienced.
“It sounded like a night of terror,” Fernandez-Ely said. “I’ve said that all along.”
The judge said she wasn’t able to hear the recording because a trial never occurred. However, she said she was accepting the plea because she didn’t want to see the victim re-victimized during a trial.
‘Impressed with himself and his status’
Throughout Wednesday’s hearing, Fernandez-Ely didn’t have many nice things to say about Hecht.
She asked him to state what he did to the victim in reference to the harassment charge, then took issue with his words.
“I didn’t like your statement, ‘I may have bruised her,’” she said. “You did bruise her.”
Allegations in his arrest warrant are “indicative of a pattern” of the “obsessive nature of power and control and abuse you exhibited,” she said.
At another point, the judge looked straight at Hecht and said, “Do you admit this was a night of terror?” Hecht’s attorney, Pamela Mackey, said the question was inappropriate and he never answered it.
The victim has alleged that Hecht uses hard drugs frequently, and Fernandez-Ely said she believes it.
“I think drugs are a problem for Mr. Hecht,” she said. “He, more than anybody, should recognize the problem and handle it.”
Mackey said the statement was unfair because Hecht has been on monitored sobriety for four months with only one positive violation. That violation concerned a back pain medication he was allowed to take that likely triggered the positive test, Mackey said.
Fernandez-Ely also said she was trying to be mindful not to “punish someone more because they are rich and powerful.
“But I do think Mr. Hecht is impressed with himself and his status,” the judge said.
She said she was referring to a 2012 incident in which Hecht allegedly said, “Don’t you know who I am” to an Open Space and Trails ranger who wrote him a ticket for parking in a no parking area.
Finally, the judge brought up the domestic violence counseling Hecht is likely to receive.
“I do hope you get something out of the treatment and you become a person who doesn’t abuse women,” Fernandez-Ely said.
The victim in the case did not attend Wednesday’s hearing because she was traveling. However, she wrote a letter to the judge, which Fernandez-Ely read in court.
“I do not believe that the District Attorney adequately protected my interests or those of others in this community that will likely fall pretty to Mr. Hecht,” the victim wrote. “The unfortunate fact is that Mr. Hecht enjoys abusing women, and because of the favorable treatment he has gotten from the District Attorney’s Office through his influence and wealth, he will continue to abuse women.”
She characterized Hecht as a “very violent and abusive person” who assaulted her in Pitkin County and other places, according to the letter.
The victim attempted to convince both Fernandez-Ely and a District Court judge to appoint a special prosecutor in the case because Caloia, the district attorney, allegedly didn’t investigate or charge the case properly, and fell under the influence of the Hecht family. However, both judges denied the petitions.
Members of the valley’s Jewish community gathered at the Albright Pavilion at Aspen Meadows Thursday for their second annual menorah lighting ceremony to celebrate and acknowledge the first day of Hanukkah.