Aspen homeless couple reunited
November 28, 2007
ASPEN ” Jane Patterson and Michael O’Gara are back together in a brown van. The couple ” known for their years spent parked on the side of Aspen streets, county roads and state highways ” were reunited Tuesday during a bond hearing in a Pitkin County courtroom.
Judge Erin Fernandez-Ely released O’Gara, who has been in the Pitkin County Jail since Oct. 14 on a domestic violence charge.
But the judge put strict conditions on the release, calling it a “trial period” before Dec. 11, when the couple will go before the judge again to check their progress.
“Now you can live together,” Fernandez-Ely said. “But here’s the deal: You can’t consume alcohol or controlled substances.”
Both O’Gara and Patterson must comply with mental health and substance-abuse case managers at The Right Door and Valley Information and Assistance (VIA).
On July 13, Patterson crashed a brown van the couple had called home for more than 10 years. Since then, the two have found themselves in a number of legal scrapes.
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Patterson, 62, faces a drunken-driving charge and recently completed an alcohol-rehabilitation clinic in Grand Junction.
O’Gara, 61, faces a domestic violence charge, and both have answered municipal charges for public urination during a prolonged stay during the summer months in Aspen’s Glory Hole Park.
After O’Gara’s release, the pair are free to return to a new 1977 Dodge, which VIA officials purchased for the couple for $500.
Fernandez-Ely suggested the couple find a “new life,” and asked O’Gara if he could abstain from alcohol.
The judge released O’Gara on a personal recognizance bond of $1,000.
He must undergo random drug and alcohol testing and comply with The Right Door and VIA. Patterson also must comply with the recommendations of The Right Door.
“It’s hard to be a celebrity, and especially to get famous the way we did,” Patterson said.
“The problem is survival,” said John Van Ness, Patterson’s attorney. “It’s not just an alcohol problem.”
“Can these guys do it?” mused Vince Savage, director of VIA. That is up to them, he said.
Fernandez-Ely said mental health, substance abuse and domestic violence issues often are related.
“Good luck,” Fernandez-Ely told the couple.
The two will go before Fernandez-Ely again Dec. 11, and will answer for other charges in coming months.
Charles Agar’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.