Aspen man in trouble over alleged lewd behavior in neighbor’s apartment
An Aspen man on probation for masturbating in a Snowmass condominium complex hot tub allegedly was caught in the act again this week in a neighbor’s apartment.
This time, however, the charge against suspect Benjamin Phillip Morton is more severe — a Class 5 felony trespass count that he was advised of by Pitkin County District Judge Chris Seldin on Thursday.
“This kind of behavior, if true, is concerning,” Seldin told Morton, 29, of Aspen. “It’s obviously landed you in a very bad place, namely in my courtroom, in orange.”
Pitkin County sheriff’s deputies arrested Morton on Wednesday, one day after a woman reported that he had entered the Maroon Creek Road apartment of a neighboring female, without her consent, and was masturbating there. The reporting party, who was witness to Morton’s behavior and a roommate of the woman whose room he entered, told authorities he tried to apologize to her through a series of texts, according to an arrest affidavit.
At one point in the string of texts, Morton admitted that he shouldn’t have entered the apartment. “It’s not ok at all! I’m so sorry to invade your privacy. Will never again! Please don’t hate me,” he wrote in a text referred to in the affidavit. The alleged victim’s roommate replied in part, “This is a whole new level of f—ed up.”
In a subsequent interview with a deputy, Morton admitted he initially had gone to the apartment to “see the girls’ cat,” the affidavit says. He also conceded to masturbating in one woman’s room.
Seldin ordered Morton, whose alleged actions did not appear to arise from the use of substances, to undergo a mental health examination.
Prosecutor Don Nottingham said the case remains under investigation.
“As I said in court, we are investigating other crimes he may have committed inside the apartment,” he said. “If he had the intent to commit a crime inside, that would be a burglary.”
As it stands, Morton does not face a sex offense, Nottingham said.
In April, Morton pleaded guilty in Pitkin County Court to a misdemeanor charge of indecent exposure. He was given one year of unsupervised probation.
In that case, Snowmass police arrested him after guests at a Snowmass condominium complex complained that Morton was pleasuring himself in one of its hot tubs. At the time, police asked Morton’s father, who was a guest at the condos, if his son had a mental problem, according to a police report. Morton’s father said his son did not.
In the meantime, Seldin and Nottingham reminded Morton that the current case precludes him from having any contact or communications with the witness or alleged victim. Either one could pursue a protection order against Morton, the judge said. But if they don’t, he must still abide by the court-imposed restrictions.
“If (the witness and alleged victim) were not to pursue (a protection order), you better keep your head down when you go to and from your own home,” Seldin said. “Get into your house as soon as possible and do everything you can to avoid contact with these victims. Do you understand?”
“Yes,” Morton replied.
Nottingham said that beyond the two masturbating incidences, Morton has a clean history.
Morton, who did not have an attorney at his advisement hearing, is due back in court June 18.
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Though no one is yet identified, surveillance footage captured at the detention center and local police department appear to reveal at least two suspects.