Globe-trotting Aspen woman cites financial hardship in ability-to-pay hearing
The Aspen Times
An Aspen woman disputing her ability to pay prosecution costs testified Monday that her trips to Bora Bora, Hawaii, Tahiti and Las Vegas were merely means to avoid homelessness.
Janette Juan pleaded no contest in October to misdemeanor theft. She had been accused of stealing travel miles from her former employer’s credit-card account and using them to rent cars, book flights and stay in an expensive Vail hotel room.
On Monday, District Court Judge Gail Nichols ruled in favor of the prosecution, citing Juan’s inability to pay the fees while noting that nothing should prevent her from paying them in the future.
As the prosecution prepared for a trial in the case last year, Deputy District Attorney Andrea Bryan said it had to secure some out-of-state witnesses for the case, which included purchasing flights. Juan had been ordered to pay $15,095 in restitution for the misdemeanor charge, but Monday’s hearing was about her ability to pay a separate amount of $1,712 in prosecution costs for the trial that never occurred.
Juan, who is in her early 50s and represented herself, brought her landlord, 87-year-old Richard Goodwin, along for the hearing. She rents a room in Goodwin’s Snowmass home for roughly $700 per month, which she pays via providing services and assistance to Goodwin. She told the court that she cooks, cleans, shops and helps Goodwin with his daily medications in lieu of cash for her rent.
Bryan turned up the heat when questioning Juan about her lifestyle, bringing up the defendant’s boastful Facebook posts from exotic locations around the world, none of which pictured Goodwin. She asked her about the multiple Facebook photos from the private Caribou Club in Aspen as well as pictures from Aspen ski slopes donning designer ski clothing and gear.
Juan, who said she has not been able to keep a job since the criminal charges against her last year, has experience working in real estate and as a travel agent as well as in property management. She said background checks and Internet searches that turn up stories about her criminal case are preventing her from finding work.
She represented herself Monday because she said she cannot afford an attorney and the public defender whom she had obtained has since dropped her.
“Based on a photo I had on Facebook, word got to the Public Defender’s Office that I’m leading this lifestyle of cruising around the world, and this is when I lost the public defender,” Juan said. “My financial situation still had not changed, and it hasn’t to this date.”
According to Juan, the trips to Bora Bora, Tahiti and Hawaii were all part of a 40-day cruise with Goodwin. She said he asked her to accompany him on the trip to assist him around and that the trip already had been paid for by Goodwin. When Bryan asked why no pictures of Goodwin appeared on Juan’s Facebook page, Juan said it’s because he’s 87, he likes his privacy and she doesn’t have permission to post pictures of him on Facebook.
“There are no future trips planned, and it hasn’t been on vacation,” Juan said of her travels with Goodwin. “Basically, it’s what I’m doing in exchange to have a roof over my head.”
Goodwin later took the stand to testify on Juan’s behalf, echoing her statements that she provides assistance to him in exchange for room and board. He’s elderly and likes having someone live in his home for his own safety, he said.
“None of this is compensation or salary,” Goodwin said, adding later that Juan is broke, and he likes helping people in need.
Goodwin used a court hearing aid on the stand but struggled to hear most of the questions asked by both Juan and Bryan. When Juan asked Goodwin about ski equipment he purchased for her — due to the fact one of his previous tenants stole Juan’s other equipment, she claimed — Goodwin was confused.
“As far as your use of my Aston Martin?” Goodwin said.
“No, not that,” Juan said.
Later, Goodwin testified that he has a 1976 Cadillac Eldorado convertible he likes to drive, so his Aston Martin often stays parked. Because Juan had sports cars “in her previous life and marriage,” Goodwin said he lets her drive the Aston Martin.
Juan only goes with Goodwin to the Caribou Club in Aspen when he has to meet his quarterly spending quota per his membership, he said.
As for whether cash is ever exchanged between Goodwin and Juan, he said he gives her cash for things around the home and that he hasn’t decided yet whether to loan her the $15,000 for her restitution payment.
Juan was awarded $2,500 in another civil case, but the award was garnished and put toward the restitution amount. She has $12,395 remaining on that bill, plus the $1,712 bill for prosecution costs.
Noting Juan’s intelligence and previous work experience, Nichols said that while it’s clear she’s unable to pay the costs now, that doesn’t mean she can’t pay in the future.
“You’re obviously a survivor. You work — and it’s only because you’re a good worker that Mr. Goodwin is keeping you on as his assistant. If you were not good to him, he wouldn’t keep you on, right?” Nichols said, to which Juan agreed. “You are healthy, intelligent, qualified to do all sorts of things, so there’s no way I can find that you do not have the ability to pay in the future.”
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The Colorado Parks and Wildlife commission voted this week to open the tract of land near Aspen for mountain lion hunting.