Misunderstanding lands Red Onion co-owner in jail

Rick Carroll
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN – The co-owner of the Red Onion in downtown Aspen was jailed Thursday for blowing off a court hearing a day earlier, only to be released Friday after a judge realized a communication breakdown led to her incarceration.

Judge Erin Fernandez-Ely quashed a warrant for the arrest of the manager  at the end of a court hearing Friday. The woman was then released from Pitkin County Jail, where she had been in custody on a $6,100 bond.

Aspen police detained the manager on Thursday, a day after Fernandez-Ely issued a warrant for her arrest for being in contempt of court. The contempt ruling was a result of the woman not appearing for a hearing Wednesday related to a lawsuit against her by Aspen law firm Goodman and Wallace PC.

The woman told the judge she had received two notices from the court: One said she was to appear Wednesday for the hearing, the other Thursday. She said she assumed the Thursday court appearance “superseded” the Wednesday one.

“I was preparing to come here and do all this [Thursday],” she told the judge. “And now I’m here.”

“I am so sorry,” Fernandez-Ely told the woman. “It’s is reasonable for you to assume that.”

The snafu was not the result of a court error; instead, the law firm suing her sent out a notice saying that the manager was due in court Thursday. A court clerk, realizing the error, then sent out another notice that said the appearance was actually Wednesday.

“I’m not looking to place the blame on anyone,” the woman told the judge.

Via speaker phone, John Goodman, the attorney suing the manager, said there appeared to be “some confusion as to which [notice] got served first.”

In any case, the judge said she didn’t believe the woman’s no-show on Wednesday “was intentional.”

“Because of the confusion, I have to quash the warrant,” she said.

In the meantime, the hearing is now set for Wednesday, April 20.

Goodman sued the manager more than one year ago – March 30, 2010 – claiming she owes more than $6,000 connected to the law firm setting up the Red Onion’s corporate entity.

The manager and her brother signed a 15-year lease in February 2010 to open the Red Onion restaurant in the Cooper Avenue pedestrian mall. It’s opened in June 2010, and continues to operate.

Editor’s note: This story was amended in February 2022 in accordance with The Aspen Times’ “Right to be Forgotten” guidelines.