Defense alleges DA misconduct in Aspen carbon-monoxide deaths case
ASPEN – The prosecution and defense attorneys for two local residents criminally linked to the Thanksgiving 2008 carbon monoxide poisoning deaths of a Denver family of four spent nearly three hours behind closed doors in a court hearing Friday.At issue was whether the defense attorneys can obtain the colloquy – that’s legal speak for a formal conversation – from the grand jury proceedings that led to the criminal indictments of former city of Aspen building inspector Erik Peltonen and Marlin Brown, owner of Glenwood Springs-based Roaring Fork Plumbing & Heating. Both either performed work or inspections on the house, located 3 1/2 miles east of Aspen, prior to the fatalities.Denver attorney Abe Hutt, who represents Peltonen, and Grand Junction’s Colleen Scissors, counsel for Brown, contend the colloquy between Assistant District Attorney Arnold Mordkin and the grand jury members will shed light on what led to the four, separate felony negligent-homicide indictments against each of their clients. Up until now, they have not had access to the conversation. They have, however, obtained transcripts from the grand jury proceedings, which ended last July. During a public portion of Friday’s hearing, held in Pitkin County District Court, both Hutt and Scissors suggested that revelations from the colloquy, if provided to them, would be used to beef up their current motions to dismiss the case based on prosecutorial misconduct. They also claim that inaccurate information was provided to the grand jury by the prosecution. Some details of their arguments, however, are under seal and not available for public consumption. One of their motions, however, notes that “there is substantial basis to believe that there were, at the very least, irregularities in the prosecutor’s conduct in the grand jury proceedings which led to the indictment.”District Judge James Boyd said he was not ready to rule on whether the colloquy will be made available to the defense team; instead he said he’ll listen to it private before he makes his ruling. Hutt, in open court, said, “We’re not just fishing here. … There was a problem.”Neither Brown, 57, of Glenwood Springs, nor Peltonen, 68, of Basalt, has entered a plea; each was indicted on the charges July 22, 2010. The charges came after Nov. 27, 2008, when Caroline Lofgren, 42, her husband, Parker, 39, and their two children, Owen, 10, and Sophie, 8, were found dead at a home at 10 Popcorn Lane, about 3 1/2 miles east of Aspen. They had won a stay at the home, which did not have a carbon monoxide detector at the time of their deaths, at an auction held at their school.Mordkin later called for grand jury proceedings – a rarity in Pitkin County – that began in July 2009. They were closed to the public, so it has been unclear precisely what criminal roles the defendants are alleged to have had in the fatalities.Also Friday, several witnesses involved in the case were subpoenaed to appear in court during closed proceedings. That included Jonathan Thomas of Black Diamond Development Corp., which owned the house at the time of the fatalities. Thomas, who was given immunity in the case, appeared with his attorney, and met in the closed-door session for more than an hour. Aspen building inspector Brian Pawl, who was originally indicted on four misdemeanor counts of reckless endangerment connected to the deaths, attended a portion of the public hearing as well, although the charges against him were dismissed in January. Mordkin dropped the lesser charges against Pawl, as well as a Peltonen, because the statute of limitations on the misdemeanor counts had expired at the time the indictments were issued. Family members on both sides appeared as well. Carla Peltonen, the wife of Erik Peltonen was on hand, as were Oregon resident Jean Rittenour, the mother of Parker Lofgren and grandmother of the two deceased children; and Massachusetts resident Hildy Feuerbach, who is the sister of Caroline Lofgren. Additionally, County Commissioners George Newman and Michael Owsley, along with County Attorney John Ely, attended the onset of the hearing before it was closed to the public. Brown and Peltonen are due back in court April 8 for further proceedings. email@example.com
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