Attempted murder charge draws judge’s scrutiny
December 17, 2011
ASPEN – A district judge said Friday that there is enough probable cause to charge an El Jebel man with attempted first-degree murder and other counts, but made critical remarks about a prosecutor’s documents that outline the offenses.
Chief Deputy District Attorney Arnold Mordkin intends to file eight criminal counts against El Jebel resident Jamie Lee Patton, 24, whom Aspen police arrested Thursday morning after he allegedly got in a car chase with his 18-year-old ex-girlfriend and her male companion. The man, 25, also told police that when he was outside the vehicle Patton tried to run him over. The male, who was not injured, alleged Patton’s Jeep grazed him.
But Pitkin County District Judge Gail Nichols, during a hearing in her chambers, contended that documents describing the pending charges against Patton failed to meet the criteria for two of the most serious charges he faces – attempted murder and attempted first-degree assault.
“Mr. Mordkin, these charges are all wrong,” Nichols said, offering her criticisms via telephone.
“You haven’t given me the correct elements at all,” she said, telling Mordkin that if Patton “is inadequately advised, it’s your fault.”
A visibly shaken-up Patton, wearing shackles and handcuffs, did not have an attorney at the hearing. He occasionally shook his head and wept when the judge read the charges and their accompanying penalties. The attempted murder charge carries a mandatory prison sentence of 16 to 24 years with a conviction.
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Mordkin, meanwhile, argued to the judge that the attempted murder charge is supported by the male accuser’s claim that Patton’s Jeep Cherokee grazed him. That allegation, however, was not reported in the affidavit the District Attorney’s Office gave Nichols.
“There’s no allegation he was even grazed,” she said. “That’s just not in there.”
Mordkin then responded: “If the vehicle had struck the victim, we wouldn’t be talking about attempted murder.”
After the hearing, Mordkin said the attempted first-degree murder charge has merit.
“In this case, the difference between life and death is a millimeter,” he said.
Nichols set his bond at $20,000; Mordkin had requested that it be $38,000. Patton left jail in the afternoon after posting bond.
“Thirty-eight thousand [dollars] is just not appropriate in this situation,” she said.
Two local residents appeared at the advisement hearing to support Patton. Among them was his boss, Aspen restaurant owner Craig Cordts-Pearce, who told Nichols that Patton has been a model employee during his tenure as general manager of CP Burger, calling him “extremely hardworking.”
“I can vouch for this man through and through,” Cordts-Pearce said. “This young man works 80 to 100 hours a week, and when I call him he is there. I can’t say enough good about this man.”
In addition to the attempted murder charge, Patton faces four other felony counts: attempted assault in the first degree, felony menacing and two counts of stalking. There’s also a pending domestic violence count, along with misdemeanor charges of criminal mischief, harassment and driving a vehicle under restraint.
Aspen police Detective Walter Chi outlined the allegations in a six-page affidavit, which says Patton was driving to Aspen on Highway 82 around 9:15 a.m. Friday when he noticed his ex-girlfriend driving another vehicle about three cars behind him. This happened near the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport.
Patton then called her from his cellphone and told her to “call me back right away,” the affidavit says.
Later, Patton turned right on Owl Creek Road and made a U-turn, and returned to Highway 82 to trail his ex. At one point Patton’s vehicle was just “inches from” the rear of the woman’s vehicle, the affidavit said.
When the woman arrived in Aspen, she drove up Red Mountain Road, as Patton “appeared to run several stop signs to keep his position directly behind her,” she told police, as described in the affidavit.
The woman then stopped her vehicle on the side of Red Mountain Road about 50 yards before the turnoff for Willoughby Way. Patton pulled his vehicle up next to his former girlfriend’s and told her passenger to get out of the car and “fight him like a man,” the affidavit says.
Patton then drove away, but again made a U-turn, this time heading back toward the woman’s vehicle. It was at that time that prosecutors believe Patton attempted to kill the man.
“[The man] got out of his car and walked toward Patton’s vehicle then attempted to talk to Patton. Patton accelerated his Jeep Cherokee and attempted to run [the man] over with his car,” the affidavit says, based on the woman’s statements. The woman also told police that Patton was driving 30 mph, and at one point the man moved to the left to avoid the Jeep.
“[The male] then worried that he might die, jumped to the right, Patton swerved to his left in order to still hit [the man],” the affidavit says.
The man then got back in the woman’s vehicle. Patton subsequently threw what the accusers said was a wrench at the woman’s car, denting its left rear door, the affidavit says.
The woman and her companion tried to call 911, and later turned around and headed toward the Aspen Police Department. When the woman turned on to North Galena Street toward the station, Patton continued eastbound on Main Street.
After the couple complained to authorities, Chi and Detective Ian MacAyeal found and arrested Patton at CP Burger.
Chi later interviewed Patton at the Pitkin County Jail. There, Patton told Chi that he had lived with the woman for six months at one time and they broke up in June. However, the two had remained in contact, and a day earlier on Wednesday they had made arrangements to carpool to work. The woman later backed out of those plans, and when Patton saw her driving to Aspen on Thursday morning, he tried to find out who her passenger was.
Patton also admitted to Chi that he had followed the woman, but said it was her male companion who jumped out of her vehicle and threw a punch at the Jeep’s window. Patton admitted throwing a wrench at the car, but said he had “no desire” to fight the man.
Patton is due back in court Monday for further proceedings.
A protection order is in place that prohibits Patton from having any type of contact, either directly or indirectly, with the alleged victim. Nichols implored him to avoid all types of communication with them.
“If there is even a hint that you or somebody else are in touch with them, then [your] bond will increase,” Nichols said.