Aspen woman jailed for harassing neighbor
November 12, 2015
An Aspen woman with a history of disputes with her neighbors was sentenced to three days in jail and a year of probation Tuesday after pleading guilty to harassing a former tenant.
Rachel Polver, 39, also will have to undergo a psychological evaluation and must have no contact with Katie Pritchard, during the year of unsupervised probation or she could return to jail for six months. Polver also will have to pay a $750 fine.
Before handing down the sentence, Pitkin County Judge Erin Fernandez-Ely said she'd dealt with Polver briefly in 2013 when she was arrested for verbally harassing another neighbor. Fernandez-Ely recused herself from that case because a courthouse employee was involved in the dispute.
That case ended in a diversion agreement, meaning Polver was not convicted of a crime.
However, the judge also said she has dealt with six other cases involving Polver, her neighbors and acquaintances and protection orders for harassing behavior .
"That's indicating a pattern of believing she's the victim when she's not," Fernandez-Ely said. "No matter what, she is the victim."
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Fernandez-Ely characterized Polver's behavior as "repetitive and stalking in nature," and said she's discussed with Polver during previous court appearances how she's expected to behave to no avail.
"Either she's contentious or she has a mental illness that causes her to react the way she does," Fernandez-Ely said.
The judge reiterated that she'd recommended Polver — a private chef — undergo a psychological evaluation in the latest case, but Polver had refused to do so. Richard Nedlin, Polver's attorney, said his client "felt insulted" by the recommendation.
"I was very clear that I thought (a psychological evaluation) was important," Fernandez-Ely said. "It wasn't designed to insult her.
On Tuesday, Fernandez-Ely grappled with how much jail time to give Polver before settling on a 60-day sentence. The judge suspended 57 of those days, though she reminded Polver that if she doesn't undergo the psychological evaluation, she will serve the full 60 days in jail.
"Jail is the place for someone who deliberately harasses other people and doesn't stop," Fernandez-Ely said.
Fernandez-Ely said she did not include community service in Polver's sentence because she was afraid that it might "expose other people to your behavior." In other words, she might end up harassing people at the agency where she'd do the community service.
The 2015 harassment charge stemmed from a dispute with Pritchard over money that devolved into numerous threatening text messages from Polver, said prosecutor Emily Nation. Those texts continued after Pritchard asked her to stop, Nation said.
Fernandez-Ely said that when Pritchard first appeared in court about the case earlier this year, she was "scared" and "shaken."
The incident mirrored the 2013 case, which centered on a dispute about dogs. The neighbor in that dispute, Elizabeth Lasko, said at the time that Polver cursed at her, verbally assaulted her and made her feel physically threatened.
Lasko wrote a letter regarding the 2015 case saying that Polver's threatening behavior hasn't ended, Fernandez-Ely said.
Other neighbors from the Independence Place affordable-housing complex — also known as "Common Ground" — wrote letters saying they felt harassed and threatened by Polver's "escalating destructive behavior." That, coupled with her litigiousness, is affecting their quality of life and making them anxious, according to the letters.
Catherine Lutz, another neighbor, appeared in court Tuesday and told Fernandez-Ely that she fears for her family's safety because of Polver.
"Nothing seems to work to make Ms. Polver stop," she said. "We want to live in a safe neighborhood, and it doesn't feel safe anymore."
Nedlin said the 2015 case was an opportunity for Polver's neighbors to gang up on her and use the allegations to force Polver to "disappear and move away." Neighbors also have behaved badly toward Polver, who wonders why "it's just me and no one is looking at other people and their lives."
"Ms. Polver just wants to be left alone to do her thing," Nedlin said.
Polver was to report to the Pitkin County Jail on Tuesday evening to begin serving her sentence.