Kerri Johnson’s Pitkin County Jail sentence postponed again

Kerri Johnson arrives for at Pitkin County District Court last month.
The Aspen Times

Citing the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and the need to continue caring for her children, Kerri Johnson last week again asked a District Court judge to let slide the more than two more months of jail time she still owes.

And again, District Judge Chris Seldin told the wife of former Aspen Skiing Co. executive Derek Johnson — the couple admitted earlier this year to stealing millions in merchandise from the company — no.

However, in an order signed Friday with no further comment, Seldin allowed Kerri Johnson for the second time to postpone the remaining 62 days in jail she owes for another month, according to court documents. She must report back to the Pitkin County Jail on June 8 to finish her sentence, he said.

Kerri Johnson, 48, pleaded guilty to felony theft in December and was sentenced in February to 90 days in the county jail and five years of probation. Derek Johnson, 52, also pleaded guilty to felony theft and was sentenced in January to six years in prison at the Sterling Correctional Facility in the state’s northeastern corner.

In March, however, after serving 28 days behind bars in Aspen, Kerri Johnson petitioned Seldin to commute the rest of her sentence in light of the pandemic and orders by Gov. Jared Polis to reduce the jail population, as well as the cancellation of schools. The Johnsons’ two school-age children at the time were being cared for by Kerri Johnson’s 76-year-old mother, who lives in Arizona.

Seldin declined to alter the 90-day sentence, but allowed Johnson to serve the sentence in two stints and ordered her released for 49 days. That stay would have run out May 9.

On April 29, Kerri Johnson filed another motion asking the judge to reconsider. Because of so-called “good time” rules that allow sentences to be reduced in exchange for good behavior while incarcerated, she noted that she would likely only have to serve another 22 days in jail anyway. Johnson has had no disciplinary issues while at the Pitkin County Jail, the motion states.

“Given the astronomical change in circumstances from the date that the sentence was originally imposed to now, the harm and risk posed by Ms. Johnson serving another 22 days in jail during this pandemic outweigh the court’s original reasons for imposing a 90-day jail sentence,” according to the motion filed by Johnson’s lawyers.

Johnson’s mother would prefer not to travel back to Aspen for virus-related health and safety reasons, while her children are able to “engage in remote learning in a more meaningful way” when their mother is around, the motion states. Social distancing and good hygiene also are difficult behind bars.

Finally, Derek Johnson is locked down inside the Sterling prison because of the coronavirus “and the children are not able to have any contact with their father,” according to the motion.

The Sterling facility is one of the COVID-19 hotspots in Colorado, with 241 positive cases as of last week and the state’s first inmate death, which occurred May 1, according to media reports.

“Mrs. Johnson is eager to resume work and begin to pay restitution,” the motion states. “She does have a plan in place and could resume work very soon if she does not have to return to jail.”

Deputy District Attorney Don Nottingham opposed the motion, though he did not object to Johnson’s June reporting date to the jail, according to the motion.