Man regrets cocaine statement that went viral
A Snowmass Village man who made a cocaine-related statement to police in October that spread virally throughout the country’s media was sentenced to two years probation Monday for drug possession.
Aspen police officers encountered Eliphalet Ford, 34, allegedly chopping lines of cocaine on a stone bench across from Little Annie’s Eating House at about 2:10 a.m. Oct. 5, according to an officer’s report. Ford brushed a line of cocaine to the ground when officers asked about it.
One of the officers shined a light up Ford’s nose and asked him if the white substance in his nostrils was cocaine.
“Of course I have cocaine up my nose,” the officer said Ford told him. “It’s Aspen.”
Lee Berish, Ford’s attorney, told District Judge Chris Seldin on Monday that his client’s family in Alabama read about him in The New York Times.
“He made a statement he will regret for the rest of his life,” Berish said. “He suffers anxiety from that every day.”
After a blurb about Ford’s statement and arrest appeared as part of an end-of-the-year, Aspen “newsmakers” article in The Aspen Times on Dec. 31, Ford’s employer suspended him for three days from his bartending job and might fire him, Berish said.
Aspen prosecutor Andrea Bryan also said she thinks the media injured Ford.
“It’s true that he has been punished by the press to some extent and he will suffer from that for quite some time,” she said.
However, Berish said Ford is looking at his situation as a “blessing in disguise.”
“It’s been a serious eye-opener for him,” he said.
Ford pleaded guilty to felony cocaine possession and misdemeanor obstructing an officer in November. According to a plea deal approved Monday by Seldin, if he spends two years on probation without getting into trouble, the felony charge will be expunged from his record.
Berish also presented Seldin with a letter from Ford’s doctor asking that he be allowed to continue using medical marijuana while on probation. Bryan objected to the request — as did the state’s probation department — saying that the “use of marijuana is not compatible with treating addiction.”
Seldin agreed with Bryan and denied the request. He ordered that Ford abstain from alcohol and drugs, undergo random drug and alcohol testing and serve 40 hours of community service.
In other court news:
• A District Court judge ruled that a 59-year-old Aspen Village man who tried to break in to a woman’s home in Old Snowmass in October while she was alone with her daughter is incompetent to stand trial.
Judge Chris Seldin made the determination about William Hallisey after reading a report from state mental health care authorities. Hallisey was first ordered to undergo the competency evaluation in October after he told Pitkin County sheriff’s deputies at the jail he was a “shaman” who could survive without food and water.
Public defender Molly Owens, Hallisey’s lawyer, asked Seldin to release Hallisey from jail and allow him to be restored to competency while out of custody. Prosecutor Andrea Bryan asked the judge to commit Hallisey to the Colorado Mental Health Institute in Pueblo, where he could be restored to competency.
Seldin agreed with Bryan and committed Hallisey to the hospital in Pueblo.
“I’ve been there already, and I won’t go back,” Hallisey said angrily. “How long will you keep sending me back to that place?”
A shirtless Hallisey allegedly stole a set of car keys from a ranch house on Snowmass Creek Road in mid-October. Later the same day, a woman at a home on Watson Divide Road in Old Snowmass said Hallisey drove up to her home, parked and attempted to open her locked front door.
The woman then saw Hallisey walk toward another door she knew was unlocked, and had to run through the house and lock it just as he was trying to open it, according to a police report.
“This is on your head, judge,” Hallisey said as sheriff’s deputies led him from court Monday.
• A 45-year-old man a prosecutor called “a master of manipulation” was ordered to be held Monday on a $10,000 cash or surety bond.
Taylor Colton was arrested for violating his probation after he missed seven days of drug and alcohol testing appointments and failed to show up for a court date and an appointment with his probation officer, said District Judge Chris Seldin.
Colton, who has a long criminal history, told Seldin that someone stole his sobriety device and his medication, sending him into a spiral. Colton told the judge he’d been doing well before that.
He also said he needed to get out of jail so he can deal with his publishing business, which is being neglected while he’s in jail and causing problems for his staff and business partners.
Prosecutor Andrea Bryan, however, told Seldin she’s heard the exact same speech from Colton before but has never been able to verify that Colton’s employees exist.
“To say he’s been a regular in this courtroom is an understatement,” Bryan said.
Bryan asked for Colton’s bond to be set at $10,000 cash only. However, Seldin allowed it to be a $10,000 cash or surety bond.
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The crises between January 2009 and Tuesday, when he stepped down from the Pitkin County board, have bookended a political career that Newman said he thinks lived up to the slogan on the yard sign from his first campaign he still keeps in his garage: “Preserve, Conserve, Collaborate.”