Pregnant woman turns self in, judge denies bond revocation
The Aspen Times
A judge rejected a prosecutor’s bid to jail a pregnant woman for allegedly committing a bond violation when she was pulled over last month for speeding and falsely identified herself to an officer.
Elsa Eva Murillo-Gonzalez, 41, who is nine months pregnant, surrendered to Pitkin County authorities Thursday morning after a warrant was issued for her arrest. Prosecutor Andrea Bryan sought the warrant for Murillo-Gonzalez, a Roaring Fork Valley resident who has a rash of felony and misdemeanor charges dating back to November 2013.
Even though the judge denied the bond revocation, Murillo-Gonzalez was sent to jail after the hearing because she missed her court appearance in Garfield County on Wednesday for the April arrest. A deputy escorted her to Pitkin County Jail after the hearing, where, as of press time Thursday, she was awaiting extradition to Garfield County.
Meanwhile, the bond hearing in Pitkin County District Court cast a spotlight on Murillo-Gonzalez’s troubled pregnancy and legal challenges. Murillo-Gonzalez wept through much of the hearing.
“I understand this is a unique situation,” Bryan told District Judge Gail Nichols, who presided over the hearing by telephone. “The people are asking for the court to set a high bond. It’s not that the people aren’t sympathetic to the situation, but frankly, I think that one of the safest places for her at this time, and for her baby, would be in jail.”
Prior to turning herself in, Murillo-Gonzalez had been free on $50,000 bond on felony charges in Pitkin County connected to check forgery and other transgressions.
A condition of her bond was that she not be arrested on suspicion of committing a felony. But April 28, she was flagged in Glenwood Springs for speeding, according to court records. Murillo-Gonzalez, who was driving to Valley View Hospital for an appointment, told the officer she didn’t have her license and her name was Vanessa Murillo and she was 23 years old, although she said she was born in 1994, according to a Garfield County Sheriff’s Office arrest warrant affidavit. The officer noticed the discrepancy between her purported birth date and age, prompting Murillo-Gonzalez to provide her actual identification. She was arrested on suspicion of felony criminal impersonation, along with lesser charges of driving as a habitual traffic offender, failure to provide proof of insurance and speeding.
Bryan wanted to revoke the current $50,000 bond for Murillo-Gonzalez and have her arrested for violating it. The prosecutor also asked for a new $50,000 bond.
Court-appointed defense attorney Chip McCrory said Murillo-Gonzalez is having a difficult pregnancy. She could have her baby any day, and time in jail would only aggravate an already stressful situation.
“There’s talk that if she doesn’t deliver in the next few days, she’ll have to have a Caesarian section,” he told the judge.
McCrory also argued that Pitkin County Jail “doesn’t have the nursing skills to handle a high-risk pregnancy if she doesn’t post bond. … Saying that she needs to go into jail and be held to a higher law at a point when she is facing imminent birth and a medical situation is at the very least foolish, and I think it’s almost reckless by the district attorney to pursue this course.”
Bryan also cited a January arrest at the Glenwood Springs Wal-Mart for shoplifting. It was a misdemeanor, but Bryan said police believed she was under the influence at the time.
“In that case were the officer’s comments that she was very clearly under the influence of some drug, either cocaine or methamphetamines,” she said.
McCrory countered, “For the record, I object to that, your honor. I don’t think that’s what’s come out in evidence.”
Nichols said she would not revoke the current bond and issue another one, which would have resulted in Murillo-Gonzalez being jailed.
“The purpose of the bond is to ensure they will appear in court,” Nichols said. She noted that Murillo-Gonzalez has regularly made her Pitkin County District Court appearances since McCrory took her case a year ago.
“I just don’t see a need to increase the bond at this point, because she did turn herself in,” the judge said.
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