Most serious drug count dropped against Lipseys
An Aspen prosecutor dropped a bombshell in court Monday morning in the case against two Aspen parents accused of giving cocaine to a 17-year-old.
Deputy District Attorney Don Nottingham said he would drop the most serious charge of distribution of cocaine to a minor filed against both Joseph Lipsey III, 56, and his wife, Shira Lipsey, 44, because there’s not enough evidence to support it. The charge would have carried a mandatory minimum prison term of eight years upon conviction, and a maximum of 32 years.
“(The) investigation has been somewhat stymied,” Nottingham said. “At this moment, there’s not a reasonable chance of success at trial with the details we now have on that count.”
Nottingham said he will file a motion to dismiss the cocaine distribution charges against the Lipseys by next week. Charges filed against the couple’s son, Joseph Lipsey IV, 19, did not change Monday, though he was not facing the severe penalties his parents faced.
“When this case broke, all over the media was that the Lipseys are drug dealers,” said Yale Galanter, Joseph Lipsey III’s lawyer and the lead attorney in the case against the family. “Today … (the prosecutor) agreed to dismiss (the cocaine distribution charge), indicating they are not.”
The development “totally changes the complexion of the case,” Galanter said.
“They were looking at a minimum mandatory eight years in prison,” he said. “Now they’re looking at probation. It’s huge.”
Galanter praised Nottingham for taking a close look at the case and making an honest assessment of the facts Monday. He also said he’d like to revisit the $100,000 in cash each Lipsey posted as bond in order to be released from the Pitkin County Jail in March.
After court Monday, Nottingham said police and the DA’s Office didn’t make a mistake in charging the Lipseys with the high-level felony. There was probable cause for that charge, though investigators have been unable to run down details from witnesses that provide a good chance of conviction at trial, he said. Ethically, then, the charge must be dismissed at this time, he said.
If those details surface in the course of further investigation, the cocaine distribution charge will be added again, Nottingham said.
Joseph Lipsey III and Shira Lipsey still each face three felony counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor and three misdemeanor counts of serving alcohol to minors. The charges stem from parties held at the Lipsey home near Aspen Highlands in which minors were allegedly allowed to consume alcohol.
Joseph Lipsey IV, who was also in court with his parents Monday, has been charged with two counts of felony distribution of drugs, felony contributing to the delinquency of a minor, four counts of possession of a controlled substance and other misdemeanor charges. He also is facing two counts of felony vehicular assault after crashing his parents’ Tesla with four other teenagers in the car in November.
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