D.A.: Lipseys ‘encouraged’ teens to party at their house
Teenage eyewitnesses have told law enforcement that two Aspen parents not only allowed minors to drink and do drugs at their home on numerous occasions, they encouraged it, according to newly filed court documents.
“(Shira and Joseph Lipsey III) … cultivated a reputation of inducing, aiding and encouraging drinking and drug use by the friends of their children,” according to a notice filed Friday by the prosecution detailing evidence in the case. “The victims of the contributing to the delinquency charges were well aware of the reputation and reality of the Defendants and their home.”
Shira Lipsey, 45, and Joseph Lipsey III, 58, each have been charged with 11 felony counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor and three misdemeanor counts of providing alcohol to minors related to a January 2019 party at their Aspen Highlands-area home. Joseph Lipsey also faces a felony possession of a controlled substance charge.
In addition to new details about that Jan. 2, 2019, party that bled into the early-morning hours of Jan. 3, 2019, the notice filed Friday in Pitkin County District Court highlighted three other parties where the Lipseys allegedly allowed high school students to drink alcohol. The document provided Monday to The Aspen Times was redacted and did not include the names of witnesses who were younger than 18 at the time of the incident.
One allegedly occurred New Year’s Eve 2017, when one teenage boy present at the Lipsey home “described juveniles drinking from large bottles of vodka,” according to the document. Shira Lipsey arrived not long after with Champagne “that the juveniles at the party drank,” it states.
Another party with underage drinking took place at the home Oct. 13, 2018 — this one with a bouncer hired “to limit the number of attendees” — while a third occurred on Super Bowl Sunday in 2018, when Joseph Lipsey placed a bottle of vodka on a counter for a group of teens, according to the notice filed Friday.
“I’ve been at the Lipseys’ house multiple times before and they’ve gotten out alcohol for everybody,” one teen told investigators. Another said he’d been to the Lipsey home between 20 and 30 times and seen alcohol available for juveniles.
A third teen said he’d been to the home between five and 10 times during high school and that Joseph Lipsey once said, “If there’s a bottle of vodka in the freezer that goes missing, no one’s going to care,” according to the court document.
A fourth teen said Shira Lipsey brought three bottles of vodka for high school students for one New Year’s Eve, when Joseph Lipsey told “the high school kids at the party that if they wanted to smoke marijuana they needed to do so in the upstairs bathroom,” the document states.
“According to (a fifth teen witness), the Defendants have never expressed any concern when they have observed drugs an alcohol at parties at their house,” the document states. “Defendant Shira Lipsey had no problems with alcohol use by the high school kids, but did get mad once when a shower curtain got broken.”
For Aspen prosecutor Don Nottingham, including the witness statements about the other parties speaks to the Lipseys’ “motive, intent and plan to allow — and in fact encourage juveniles to drink and do drugs at their house.”
“Had the defendants on one occasion encouraged a juvenile to drink, it could conceivably been a mistake,” Nottingham wrote in the notice. “In light of the overwhelming pattern of behavior, the Defendants clearly were not mistaken, but were intentionally encouraging juveniles to break the law.”
In addition to including details about the those prior alleged parties, the notice also provides more details about the Jan. 2-3 party, when the acts the Lipseys are charged with committing are alleged to have occurred.
Four teenagers told law enforcement they were at the party and that the Lipseys, who were present at various times talking to partygoers, either provided the alcohol or didn’t have a problem with underage drinking. A fifth said he was drinking with others at the party when he wandered upstairs and sat down at a coffee table with Shira and Joseph Lipsey, their son and two unknown men in their 20s, according to the document.
“Defendant Joseph Lipsey III reached under the coffee table, brought out a plate with cocaine and offered it to (the teenage boy),” the notice states. “(The teenage boy and the Lipsey’s son) and defendant Joseph Lipsey III each snorted cocaine. Defendant Shira Lipsey was not seen ingesting cocaine.”
That teenager surreptitiously took two videos “of the cocaine” — one at 3 a.m. and one at 6:30 a.m. — that were both turned over to law enforcement.
Two other teens also saw the cocaine, one of whom described it as “half a tennis ball” on a plate, according to the notice.
The Lipseys initially were each charged with one count of felony distribution of cocaine to a minor, a high-level felony with potential mandatory prison time. The charges were later dropped.
Yale Galanter, who heads the defense team representing the Lipseys, said Monday he could not comment on Friday’s filing
“I wish I could,” said Galanter, who is based in Miami but lives part time in Aspen. “I don’t want to lose my ticket to practice law.”
The defense team will respond to Nottingham’s pleading within 30 days, and the response will be “scathing,” Galanter said.
Last week, the Lipseys agreed in a hearing to waive their right to a speedy trial because the courtroom in Aspen cannot accommodate enough people for trial under COVID-related guidelines. The trial has essentially been postponed indefinitely.
Pitkin County sheriff-elect Michael Buglione on Wednesday credited his election victory to grassroots campaigning, hard work, and handshakes.