DA taking unusual tack
Aspen’s district attorney is resorting to a novel technique in his case against a teen-ager convicted of involvement in a local crime spree – he’s telling the judge about crimes the teen is believed to have committed, but for which he has not been charged.
Deputy District Attorney Lawson Wills has filed a “presentencing memorandum” in the case against Yuri Ognacevic, who in November pleaded guilty to one count of robbery in connection with the Aug. 5 armed robbery at Clark’s Market in Aspen.
This week it was recommended to the court that Ognacevic, who was to be sentenced on Dec. 6, be sent to prison for four years. The sentencing was delayed by the judge, however, and negotiations are said to be under way between the prosecutor’s office, the district probation department (which issues recommendations on sentencing) and Ognacevic’s attorney, Fred Gannett of Basalt.
In the “memorandum,” Wills notes that Ognacevic, 19, has confessed to involvement in a July 4 burglary of the Take 2 Video store in Aspen.
According to the memorandum, Ognacevic, who was a former employee at the store, went to Take 2 that night with Cody Wille, 17, who also is charged with involvement in the Clark’s Market armed robbery.
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After Wille broke a window using a pair of bolt cutters, Wills’ memorandum continues, the two went into the store, cut off a padlock on a safe and made off with an estimated $2,650 in cash and $800 in checks.
The memorandum also states that Ognacevic was implicated in the Take 2 burglary during police interviews with Wille on Nov. 14, and with another suspected criminal, Wade Hammond, 18, on Nov. 4. The two also named another local youth, a minor whose name is not being made public but who has reportedly confessed to the crime.
According to Wills’ statement, Ognacevic admitted to his involvement at Take 2 in an interview with police on Nov. 19, although he has not been formally charged with the burglary.
Ognacevic’s name also came up in connection with a series of late-summer burglaries at the Aspen Elementary School, according to Wills’ memo, although Ognacevic denied any involvement in interviews with police.
According to the memorandum, Ognacevic and another of the local youths implicated in a series of robberies and burglaries in the area, Nathan Morse, made off with televisions, video recorders, camcorders and a printer in the elementary school heist in late August or early September. Some of the goods reportedly were later recovered among Morse’s personal belongings, which were being packed up by co-workers after Morse, 18, was arrested in connection with the burglary of a Twining Flats home on Sept. 20.
No charges have been filed in connection with the school burglary.
Some local law enforcement officials, speaking privately, have said Wills is planning to use the same technique with other local teenagers accused of involvement in robberies and burglaries in the Aspen and Snowmass area. Some officials have questioned the propriety of Wills’ use of investigations that have resulted in neither formal charges nor convictions.
Wills could not be reached for comment on his use of the memorandum in the case against Ognacevic.
Judge J.E. DeVilbiss is scheduled to pass sentence on Ognacevic in late January.
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