Nikos Hecht asks for allegations of ‘other acts’ sealed
November 4, 2015
A prominent Aspen developer and landlord accused of domestic violence wants a judge to seal possible evidence in the case and close hearings on that evidence to the public, according to court documents.
Nikos Hecht expects prosecutors to introduce evidence in his case of "alleged other crimes, wrongs and acts of the accused" that later may be admissible as evidence in his trial, according to a motion filed Friday by his lawyer Pamela Mackey of Denver.
"Based on counsel's review of the discovery in this case, much of the other acts evidence the prosecution could (introduce) is irrelevant to this incident and involves intensely personal subject matters," the motion states. "Public dissemination of this irrelevant and likely inadmissible evidence poses a substantial risk of prejudicing the jury pool."
Because of that concern, Hecht and Mackey are asking Pitkin County Judge Erin Fernandez-Ely to seal that prospective evidence and close all hearings when that evidence is discussed, the motion states.
U.S. government census figures indicate that Pitkin County's current estimated population is 17,626 people, which means "significantly fewer than 17,000 individuals would qualify as jurors" in Hecht's case, according to the motion.
"Given the small size of the jury pool, the potential for contamination is significant," the motion states.
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Mackey also mentions circulation figures for The Aspen Times, and says that any possible motions in the Hecht case "will be publicly distributed."
"This case is the subject of intense local media coverage," the motion states. "Allowing the jury pool to learn of inadmissible evidence violates Mr. Hecht's right to a fair trial."
Mackey sought to seal an affidavit filed last month by the victim in the case that contained numerous allegations about Hecht. Ely denied that motion.
Steve Zansberg, a First Amendment lawyer in Denver, said sealing some of the proceedings in a criminal case requires "an extremely high burden of proof" that not doing so will harm the defendant.
"There's a strong presumption of public access," said Zansberg, who has previously represented The Aspen Times. "In all likelihood, they cannot meet that standard."
Hecht is charged with assault, harassment and menacing — all misdemeanors — in connection with an incident that occurred at his home in late July between him and his former girlfriend.
Fernandez-Ely ruled during a hearing last month that Hecht must be monitored for sobriety. During that hearing, prosecutors seized Hecht's cellphone because of an allegation that he had recently contacted the victim contrary to the rules laid out in a protection order filed against him.
A search warrant filed Oct. 20 — five days after that hearing — says the 31-year-old victim in the case received three "Face Time" calls from Hecht's cellphone to her cellphone on Oct. 10. The calls were received at 12:14 p.m., 12:25 p.m. and 12:28 p.m., but the woman, who was out of state, didn't answer them.
After the first call she texted the number with the message, "Nikos?" but received no answer, the warrant states.
Apple, which holds records for Face Time calls, produced information based on the request from the Pitkin County Sheriff's Office, though that information was not detailed in the search warrant.
Hecht is free on a $1,000 bond and is due back in court Dec. 1.