Judge lowers bond for alleged RFTA groper
A judge Tuesday issued a $1,000 personal recognizance bond for a Carbondale man accused of inappropriately touching a woman on a public bus and also under suspicion for similar incidents.
Jonathan Jaime Hernandez, 35, made his first appearance in Pitkin County Court in connection to a misdemeanor harassment charge that came after deputies arrested him Aug. 18 at the Local’s Corner service station.
Hernandez came to the attention of law enforcement Aug 17, when a woman reported the behavior stemming from an alleged incident that morning on a Roaring Fork Transportation Authority bus ride from Basalt to Aspen. She took three photos of Hernandez, and authorities later matched his image from RFTA surveillance video with identifying information.
A prosecutor from the Pitkin County District Attorney’s Office, part of the 9th Judicial District, said Tuesday during the virtual court hearing Hernandez is under investigation for committing similar transgressions in the area, including inappropriately touching a 14-year-old girl on a RFTA bus. As of Tuesday, no charges had been filed other than the harassment count from last week’s arrest.
“At this stage, they are still working on whether or not they are going to have enough to charge the sex assault on a child,” Pitkin County Deputy District Attorney Luisa Berne told Judge Erin Fernandez-Ely.
As well, a summons for his arrest was issued this week in Eagle County, the prosecutor said.
“He has been given a summons for another case in Eagle,” Berne said. “And then we’re up to five victims from this incident on the bus up and down the valley.”
Arrest information out of Eagle was not immediately available Tuesday.
“At this point, I’m not sure what the Eagle charges are,” Berne said. “I would assume something close to this. I don’t know how much longer we can hold him on a harassment.”
Hernandez appeared virtually in court from Pitkin County Jail, and he did not have counsel but was aided in the hearing by an English-Spanish translator.
Fernadnez-Ely changed his bond from a $5,000 cash or surety bond to a personal recognizance bond in the amount of $1,000. She urged Hernandez to stay away from the alleged victim and make his next court date Sept. 14.
“The most important thing you have to remember to avoid a warrant for you arrest is to appear on your court date and have no contact with (the accuser),” she said.
Hernandez remained in Pitkin County Jail as of 3 p.m. Tuesday. He previously told authorities that he accidentally touched the woman but later admitted to it, according to an arrest warrant affidavit.
“During the bus ride, (the woman) was reading the morning paper and kept feeling something on her right hip,” the affidavit states. “(She) reported feeling this 2-3 times, but it was very faint. She kept looking down thinking it was her jacket, but she didn’t think much of it. She then felt something on her upper waist and looked down and saw a hand.”
She then turned around and confronted the man sitting behind her, the affidavit said.
“Stop touching me,” she told told Hernandez, who she did not know, according to the affidavit. “Don’t do it again. If you touch me again, I’ll hit you.”
A couple are awaiting trial on federal criminal charges that they used fraudulent means to receive over $200,000 through the Paycheck Protection Program.
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