Illegal hotel stay in Aspen leads to jail term for homeless man | AspenTimes.com

Illegal hotel stay in Aspen leads to jail term for homeless man

Andre Salvail
The Aspen Times

Pitkin County District Judge Gail Nichols on Monday sentenced a homeless man with a lengthy record of local arrests to one year in county jail after he admitted that he spent the night at the Aspen Square Hotel without paying.

Edward J. Dugan III, 47, pleaded guilty to attempted criminal trespassing, a felony, and criminal mischief, a misdemeanor. A preliminary hearing on his case had been set for Monday afternoon, but it was canceled earlier in the day when he agreed to a plea arrangement with the 9th Judicial District Attorney's Office.

Officially, Dugan received one year of probation for the felony and one year of jail time for the misdemeanor, with the sentences to run concurrently. Nichols said that Dugan will get credit for the 82 days he has spent in the Pitkin County Jail since his June 24 arrest at the hotel.

He also can reduce his sentence through good behavior, she said. Under the plea agreement, his probation term will cease automatically once he is released.

The arrest was based on a June 6 report from personnel at the East Cooper Avenue hotel to Aspen police. Officer Adam Loudon, who responded to the call, wrote in an arrest affidavit that he arrived at the hotel to find a window in one of the units off track but not broken. None of the items in the room appeared to be missing, he said.

However, Loudon added that he met and spoke with the room's two occupants and found a broken lamp on the floor, a broken piece of glass on the nightstand and a small backpack on the ground. One of the occupants pointed to the tan backpack and also a tan hat and said the items did not belong to them, he said.

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Inside the backpack, Loudon said, he found a form used to petition the Pitkin County court to seal arrest and criminal records.

In court Monday, public defender Sara Steele said that Dugan was only in Aspen in early June to petition the court to seal local arrest records. She asked for leniency, saying Dugan did not intend to damage anything in the hotel unit.

Dugan told Nichols that his Colorado arrest record totaled 22 misdemeanor charges prior to the June incident. The long arrest record had been hampering his ability to find a job, Dugan said. That's why he traveled to Aspen in June — to ask the court to seal certain records, he said.

Dugan said he sought an unlocked room at the hotel because he had nowhere else to stay.

"I was just really looking for a place to sleep," he said. "I moved a lamp. I didn't think I broke it. I definitely didn't break the window."

The next day he realized there was a chance he could get in trouble, he said. And so he left quickly.

"I woke up and figured what an idiot I was, and I ran away," Dugan said.

A warrant was issued for his arrest in the days that followed. When Dugan returned to the hotel on June 24, an employee called police.

Dugan expressed frustration to Nichols about the difficulties he's had while looking for work because employers regularly check criminal backgrounds.

"Once you're on paper, it's always there," he said, adding that human-resources departments look at his record and can't tell which arrests led to convictions and which ones resulted in acquittal.

"It makes it hard to look for work," Dugan said. "A person in human resources can't distinguish (among) all the arrests that are out there."

Dugan said he came to feel that each job hunt "was an exercise in futility." He also told Nichols that when he was in college he knew he would end up homeless because employers tend to hire good-looking people who lack skills over those who are unattractive but better qualified.

After handing down the sentence, Nichols told Dugan that she hopes he seeks support from relatives on the East Coast once he is released.

andre@aspentimes.com