Colver won’t tell who was with him for Alps robbery
Only one man knows exactly who robbed the Aspen Alps Condominiums office at gunpoint more than a year ago, and that man has steadfastly refused to tell all he knows.
But on Thursday, convicted Alps robber Thomas Colver found himself entangled by a convoluted series of questions from prosecutor Lawson Wills, designed to weave a convincing argument that Aspenite Anthony Rizzuto was Colver’s accomplice on Aug. 6, 1999.
Rizzuto, 20, is being tried this week on charges that he and Colver rushed into the Alps office at around 10 p.m. that night and that Rizzuto aimed a BB pistol at the night auditor and forced her to turn over more than $1,000.
Because there is little physical evidence to rely on, Wills is basing most of his case on testimony of 12 other local teens implicated in a crime spree in August and September of 1999. That series of crimes included armed robberies at the Alps and two area grocery stores, as well as several burglaries of local businesses and a home on Twining Flats.
Colver, who worked as a bellman at the Alps before and after the robbery, last year pleaded guilty to taking part in the crime and is now serving a prison sentence for that and a conviction on felony drug charges.
Testifying for the prosecution Thursday, he once again declined to name his accomplice, saying, “He told me if I ever told anybody, he would kill me.”
Colver had earlier testified that Rizzuto was “a good friend” and a better friend than the others he knew in the group of 12 implicated in the crime spree.
Under Wills’ persistent questioning, Colver confirmed that last September, after he pleaded guilty to the Alps heist, he told a probation officer that identifying his co-conspirator “would put [Colver] in danger … and … put him [the other robber] in danger.”
Switching gears, Wills then asked Colver to elaborate about the planning for the Alps robbery, which Colver had already said was initially his own idea.
“It was an idea that I came up with, but without that other person [the second robber], I wouldn’t have done it,” he testified.
Colver confirmed earlier statements that he was at the home of crime spree cohort Cody Wille when he mentioned the idea of robbing the Alps office to a group that included convicted robber Moses Greengrass, Rizzuto and others.
“They convinced me it was all right and a cool thing to do,” he said, adding that “they” mean Greengrass and “people that had done the Clark’s [robbery]. This other person really wanted to do it. I think he’d done it before.”
Colver added that he “obtained” the pistol that was used in the robbery, but that “the other kid” was the one who wielded it.
He said that, on the night of Aug. 6, he and the unnamed accomplice went to the Glory Hole Park on Aspen’s east side to sit and talk for a while, then walked over to the Alps office at the base of Aspen Mountain to do the robbery.
At the office, he said, the “other kid” went in first, pulled out the gun and did all the talking, because Colver was afraid the night auditor might recognize his voice, since Colver had worked at the Alps for several days before the robbery.
“The other kid I was with really intimidated the lady with the BB gun,” he recalled, referring to night auditor Renee Ryan, whom he said pleaded, ” `Please, don’t shoot me.’ She was scared. I didn’t know he was going to use it. He pulled it out and scared her. I didn’t like that.”
At that point, he said, “The kid grabbed the money and we left; we went to Cody’s house.”
He said they ran out of the office and returned to Glory Hole Park to hide the clothes they wore during the robbery and split the money – $500 for Colver, $600 for the “other kid.”
At one point in his testimony, Colver said he then ran into town and encountered Rizzuto at the Paradise Bakery. He said he climbed into Rizzuto’s car, and the pair went back to Cody Wille’s and met up with Greengrass and the others.
Wills noted that in his earlier statements to police and others, Colver did not explain how he separated from his accomplice, nor how he met up with Rizzuto.
Wills also noted that Rizzuto was the only one of the 12 implicated who had not been convicted at the time that Colver made the statements about not wanting to put his accomplice “in danger.” Thus, Wills said, Colver could not “endanger” anyone but Rizzuto by breaking his silence and identifying his accomplice.
In other testimony, several of Rizzuto’s acquaintances and friends said they had either heard Rizzuto talking about the Alps robbery after he showed up at Wille’s house, or had heard from Greengrass that Colver and Rizzuto had together robbed the Alps. Those testifying have so far included Wille, Yuri Ognacevic and Alex Cassatt, each of whom pleaded guilty to different aspects of the crime spree.
But defense attorney Joe St. Veltri spent considerable time Thursday trying to discredit the testimony of the young men, arguing that they were all making up stories to implicate Rizzuto in order to curry favor with law enforcement.
Each of them made “deals” with the prosecution, he said, agreeing to testify against their friends in return for having charges dropped and sentences reduced.
And, St. Veltri continued, Wille, Ognacevic and Colver are all hoping their testimony will persuade Judge J.E. DeVilbiss to rule favorably on requests that all have filed to have their sentences reconsidered.
Each of the three denied St. Veltri’s accusations, saying they were not testifying based on promises by the prosecution.
Court officials are hoping to finish the trial by the end of the day on Friday, although it could spill over into Saturday.
The trial may have to be extended due to a combination of lengthy examinations by the attorneys, legalistic bickering by the attorneys that cannot take place before the jury and unforeseen delays such as a false fire alarm in the Pitkin County Courthouse on Wednesday that emptied the courtroom for more than half an hour.
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