Man gets three years’ probation after sex charges dropped | AspenTimes.com
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Man gets three years’ probation after sex charges dropped

Chad Abraham

A man once charged with sexually assaulting his daughter was sentenced Monday to three years’ probation for an unrelated trespassing charge.The sentencing of the Aspen man, whom the Times has not identified to protect the identity of the alleged victim, brings to a close an agonizing case.The man agreed to the plea bargain after the girl’s mother decided in January not to have her daughter testify against her father. She called it “the hardest decision I have ever made in my life.”The original charges – incest and sex assault on a child by one in a position of trust – were dropped in exchange for his pleading guilty to first-degree trespassing.The defendant faced up to three years in prison for that charge. Police said he stole a wedding ring valued at $15,000 to $20,000 from a vehicle near the Sunnyside trail on Cemetery Lane in May 2004.But the court’s probation office recommended the man be sentenced to three years of supervised probation, saying he has made significant progress in battling an alcohol problem.Deputy District Attorney Gail Nichols said she initially thought a probation sentence “seemed inappropriate.” She told Judge James Boyd on Monday that given the man’s criminal history – the latest charge was his fourth larceny-related crime – she thought four years in prison was appropriate.However, Nichols said the probation office’s recommendation had the support of Brad Osborn, an addiction counselor and director of The Right Door. The defendant has never had the chance to live in the outside world with a support system such as The Right Door, she added.Because of those factors, Nichols said she “very reluctantly” agreed with the probation recommendation. “Not wholeheartedly,” she said.Former prosecutor Andrew Heyl criticized the decision to drop the sexual assault counts in January: “It was a strong case,” Heyl said at the time.The man’s attorney, public defender Greg Greer, said his client has earned both the probation sentence and Nichols’ skepticism. But the criminal justice system has a goal of ensuring that defendants take responsibility for their personal choices, with the least amount of government intervention as possible, he told Boyd.”He has been very, very responsible with me and how he has dealt with his cases,” Greer said.The defendant could have bonded out of jail again but realized he had addiction problems and chose to remain behind bars and get help, Greer said. Because he realizes the consequences of his actions, the judicial system has achieved one of its “most desired results.”The man told Boyd that “both sides are right,” referring to Nichols’ hesitation and Greer’s glowing remarks. He admitted he had been abusing alcohol and other drugs. But, “I’ve made major improvements in my lifestyle” and decision-making, he said.”I take full responsibility for it. The recommendation is fair,” he told the judge. “I’m ready to move forward.”Boyd told the defendant that his criminal history created difficulty in deciding whether to send him to prison. He agreed, however, that a philosophical goal of the court system is reducing government intervention, such as prison.The man has been attending drug court, which involves separate hearings in which defendants with substance-abuse problems update the judge on their progress.He has shown a “healthy and committed approach,” Boyd said, and has been open in admitting his drinking problem. In sentencing him to probation, Boyd said the man’s recent upstanding behavior warrants another chance. But prison is likely should he fail any part of his probation, meaning he has an “extra premium” to stay out of trouble, the judge said.The defendant must complete drug court and 60 hours of community service; he must also write a letter of apology to the victim of the trespassing. He was sentenced to 90 days in jail and given credit for 142 days already served.Finally, he must abide by the recommendations of a court-ordered psychosexual evaluation.Chad Abraham’s e-mail address is chad@aspentimes.com


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