Coke charge dismissed against Aspen bartender because of ‘proof problems’ | AspenTimes.com

Coke charge dismissed against Aspen bartender because of ‘proof problems’

The District Attorney's Office dismissed a charge of cocaine distribution filed last month against an Aspen nightclub bartender after encountering "proof problems" in the case, DA Jeff Cheney said Monday.

Jesse Shotwell, 38, no longer faces the felony charge, though it could be refiled later, he said.

"We hate to drag anybody's name through the mud, for sure," Cheney said. "There was probable cause for the arrest. Subsequent investigation revealed proof problems."

Cheney declined to discuss the nature of those problems, saying the case remains under investigation. He did, however, say that Aspen police did not err in their handling of the case.

"I do not believe police made any mistakes," he said, adding that it is not unusual for his office to dismiss cases. Cheney also noted that the probable cause in the warrant was reviewed by a member of his staff and signed by a judge. Aspen Assistant Police Chief Linda Consuegra said the person who told police Shotwell sold him a gram of cocaine from behind the bar about 9 p.m. on Dec. 15 later changed his story, then asked to speak to a lawyer.

Shotwell declined to comment on the situation Tuesday, referring questions to his lawyer.

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"I don't think people appreciate the force and power of the government," said Ryan Kalamaya, Shotwell's attorney. "It is extremely concerning that, without any explanation, the charges were dismissed."

Warrants should be based on more than just probable cause, he said.

"Signing warrants when all you have is probable cause — in my mind, that's the equivalent of firing first and aiming later," Kalamaya said. "A bell has been rung that can't be unrung."

The distribution charge against Shotwell came about after a local man was pulled over just after 10 p.m. Dec. 15 by Aspen police and later charged with DUI, according to court documents. The man told police he had a gram of cocaine in his pocket, and later said he bought the drug from a bartender at Bootsy Bellows nightclub, records state.

The man identified Shotwell as the bartender who sold him the drug from behind the bar after officers showed him a photo lineup, according to the records.

Andrew Sandler, Bootsy Bellows' owner, said Shotwell wasn't even working at 9 p.m. on Dec. 15, and that the bar didn't register the sale of a drink that night until 9:39 p.m.

jauslander@aspentimes.com