My last trial in Aspen involved bomb maker Jim Blanning suing my client, Maco Stewart, to quiet title to some mining claims he sold to Maco and then transferred later to a phony corporation, claiming “use it or lose it.” Several transfers later he tried to “quiet title” in the name of his alter ego corporate entity run by his then-girlfriend.
Judge J.E. DeVilbiss heard the case and ruled against Blanning, finding his lawsuit was frivolous. Other parties that he tried to cheat in that case included some of Art Pfister’s group of friends and my other client, Ed Smart. I remember at the end of the case Blanning yelled at me from the second floor of the court house claiming I destroyed his marriage. I reminded him he wasn’t married ” so then he said I destroyed his “relationship” with his girlfriend who had carried his water in the trial. That was late 1993. The Court of Appeals upheld the decision the next year, and the Supreme Court refused to hear it.
Later, still peeved over losing his case, he climbed on the Pitkin County courthouse roof and threatened to jump. Ted Gardenschwartz, a famous Aspen lawyer, called me and said Blanning was on the courthouse roof. Blanning reversed his decision and didn’t jump after baiting the assembled mob who were chanting that he should go for it. Months later Blanning went into the a bar naked and drunk. He interrupted a commissioner’s meeting (probably informal) wearing only a red dildo appropriately positioned. The county attorney, Tim Whitsitt, called me and said he told Blanning, “How ’bout them Broncos?” What else would one say?
Maybe it was the Shanahan thing that put Jim over the top ” who knows since he was always over the top. He was certifiable, lived in a little trailer on the top of Ajax, and, in retrospect, set the model for Madoff. But Blanning was more mouth than anything, and it’s surprising that anything he might make would actually ignite. I met him in federal custody a year later after the conviction, and we had an amiable conversation in an elevator, though he was cuffed and sported a beard. He was in custody for alleged wire fraud.
Jim also got tried in Meeker on state charges of fraud. The jury convicted him on 14 counts, and then he ran out on his bond and didn’t show up for the last day of trial. Jim’s lawyer, David Miller, called him the head of the “Apple Dumpling Gang” and not a racketeer. Obviously he served some time. Maco Stewart moved to Texas and ran for U.S. Senate, then died. He was one of the first guys on the mountain with a new heart courtesy of one of the big medical clinics. Some of the Pfister group are still alive.
All of the old miners on Ajax are now dead ” many by their own hand. Sounds like a novel or a movie.
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Pitkin County and Basalt have been subsidizing the public drop-off recycling center in Basalt since 2015. Pitkin County informed Basalt it won’t contribute any longer. Basalt says it can’t provide the entire subsidy required by private company Waste Management. The future of the popular facility is in doubt.