Former Aspen man admits to violating his probation |

Former Aspen man admits to violating his probation

Andre Salvail
The Aspen Times

A former Aspen man has pleaded guilty in Pitkin County District Court to violating terms of the four-year probation sentence he received last year for a drug-possession charge.

Thomas J. Simmons, 24, appeared Monday before Judge Gail Nichols, the same judge who agreed to Simmons’ plea arrangement in April 2013. When Simmons was taken into custody in February 2012, authorities heralded the arrest as one of the Aspen Police Department’s biggest drug busts in recent memory.

The case, however, bogged down because of a mistake by police during the course of the investigation, prompting the District Attorney’s Office to drop felony drug-distribution charges. His defense attorney, Garth McCarty, had successfully filed a motion arguing that a warrant to search his house and car was invalid because it was based on false premises.

That search turned up large amounts of cash, cocaine, MDMA (Ecstasy), hash, mushrooms and LSD. The drug evidence police seized, McCarty said, constituted “fruit of an illegal arrest.”

Simmons ended up pleading guilty to possession of 4 grams of cocaine and received 90 days in the Pitkin County Jail plus the probation term. Now, following the latest guilty plea, he faces up to six years in state prison or up to 12 years in Garfield County Community Corrections, a facility in Rifle that provides courts with alternative sentencing options for non-violent offenders.

Through his guilty plea Monday, Simmons admitted that he had “relapsed,” testing positively for drugs or alcohol in August, November and December. He also is accused by the local probation office of failing to participate in mandatory counseling sessions.

Sentencing was set for Aug. 4.

In other District Court activity:

• Louie Alvarado, 36, of San Pedro, California, received a three-year sentence to the community corrections facility in Rifle after having previously pleaded guilty to assault. Aspen police arrested him on Sept. 2, saying he punched a man for no apparent reason near the Mountain House Lodge. He also is said to have spit on a police officer and a jailer on the night of his arrest.

Prosecutor Andrea Bryan argued that Alvarado has a violent criminal history which includes three felony convictions. She said he showed complete disrespect and ill treatment of law enforcement personnel and deserved two years in state prison.

But public defender Sara Steele pointed out that Alvarado is diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and has never received proper attention for his condition. She said he was sorry for his actions and deserved a chance to break through a cycle of problems.

On the night he hit the unsuspecting person, Steele said, he had been drinking and became paranoid, believing the individual was following him and his mother. At the Garfield facility, he can obtain the work and social skills he needs to start a new life, she said.

Nichols agreed to the community sentence in lieu of prison time, noting that the Rifle facility has accepted Alvarado despite his background. “They obviously believe that you can manage this,” she said. “You obviously have impressed people.”

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