Independence Pass hostage taker’s trial set for March in Pitkin County
Lawyers and court officials Wednesday scheduled a two-week trial in March for the Colorado Springs man charged with taking three men hostage at gunpoint on Independence Pass in July 2016.
Meanwhile, Brolin McConnell, 31, was charged late last week with possession of contraband in jail for allegedly using another inmate’s smuggled cellphone to send nearly 1,400 text messages to his family members, according to a police report.
The latest charge against McConnell stems from Pitkin County Jail officials discovering another inmate talking on the phone in his cell in early September. A month later, a Pitkin County sheriff’s investigator sent a court order to Verizon asking for the text messages from the phone — which had been deleted — and discovered 1,379 text messages, most of which had been sent to McConnell’s family members between Aug. 23 and Aug. 28, according to a police report.
On Oct. 20, investigator Brad Gibson went to the jail and asked McConnell if he wanted to talk about the text messages and McConnell declined, the report states. Gibson said Thursday he doesn’t know what the text messages said because Verizon doesn’t retain such information, though he’s exploring other methods to obtain the actual texts.
McConnell has been charged with two counts of attempted first-degree murder, first-degree kidnapping, two counts of attempted first-degree kidnapping, three counts of second-degree kidnapping and 10 counts of felony menacing. His case was in legal limbo for about six months earlier this year after prosecutors appealed a District Court judge’s ruling reducing three of those charges after a preliminary hearing in February.
The Colorado Court of Appeals reversed that ruling in August and reinstated the charges.
Jury selection is sent to being March 2 in McConnell’s trial. The Pitkin County Court Clerk’s Office plans to call twice the number of possible jurors for the case at that time because of the amount of publicity the case has generated, a clerk said Thursday.
The trial will take place March 6 to 16 at the Pitkin County Courthouse in downtown Aspen, according to court records.
McConnell allegedly brandished two handguns when he took the three men hostage July 27, 2016, a short distance down Lincoln Creek Road up Independence Pass. He repeatedly threatened to kill the men, and fired shots at one man’s feet and next to his head, according to officials. All three men were able to run away from McConnell and were not physically injured.
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Judge Mark Thompson, who presided over courts in Eagle, Summit, Clear Creek and Lake counties, will not resume his duties as a judge upon his eventual return from planned time off. He has been charged with a single count of felony menacing.