Judge binds coke case over for trial
ASPEN – Despite her own admission that the 9th Judicial District Attorney’s Office has “slim evidence” for its prosecution of a Snowmass man on a felony drug charge, a judge Monday bound the case over for trial.
Pitkin County District Judge Gail Nichols’ ruling to uphold one charge of possession with intent to distribute cocaine – filed against Snowmass Village resident Justin Gordon, 33 – comes after last month’s preliminary hearing to determine whether the case had sufficient probable cause. Nichols also ruled that there was enough evidence that Gordon violated terms of his bail bond conditions when he failed to show up for court Nov. 1 to face the charge. That charge also is a felony.
Gordon was arrested in October on the drug charge – one week after an alleged Oct. 1 scuffle with a cab driver and another passenger outside of Eric’s Bar in downtown Aspen. However, police did not find any cocaine on Gordon’s person, instead finding 11 grams of the substance on the street after Gordon had left the scene.
Police say the baggie of cocaine fell out of Gordon’s pocket, along with other evidence tying him to the scene – a passport with his name, a lighter and a necklace.
Initially, police did not want to pursue the drug case against Gordon because their case was not solid enough. But a week after the incident, a taxi passenger who claimed his arm was broken from the fight told police that he saw the baggie of coke fall out of Gordon’s pocket. Police then brought the case to the District Attorney’s Office, which pursued the intent-to-distribute charge.
Nichols noted that the standard to bind a case over for trial is low – “in the light most favorable to the prosecution,” she explained during her ruling – but there was just enough evidence to move forward with the case.
“Other items fell out of his pocket, so it would be rational that the cocaine fell out of it also,” she said.
The judge also said that the alleged victim who told police that he saw the baggie fall from Gordon’s pocket might have credibility issues.
“But the court can’t find [the alleged victim] incredible, as a matter of law,” she said.
Nichols also wondered aloud why Aspen police Officer Jeff Fain, who found the cocaine on the ground, didn’t ask anyone on the scene about it. Instead, he collected the substance and ran a field test on it, which proved positive for cocaine.
Nevertheless, the judge said that the “court will find based on admittedly slim evidence, the amount [of cocaine] is indicative of the intent to distribute.”
Before the witness came to police, Gordon originally was arrested on a misdemeanor charge of theft under $100, for allegedly refusing to pay a taxi driver for a ride, along with disorderly conduct.
Gordon was in court Monday but did not speak. Sara Steele, a public defender, represented him. Gordon is due back in court for his arraignment Oct. 17.
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