Ognacevic gets 4 years

John Colson

Despite impassioned pleas for leniency from his family and other supporters, local teen-ager Yuri Ognacevic was sentenced to four years in prison for his role in a crime spree that swept through the Aspen area last year.

His family asked 9th Judicial District Judge J.E. DeVilbiss to either sentence Ognacevic, 18, to a term in the Pitkin County Jail or send him to a “community corrections” center, which is a less harsh type of incarceration.

Ognacevic himself delivered a lengthy apology to his family, the victims of his crimes, the community in general, and even to his co-defendants for his “not standing up and being the voice of reason” when the crime spree got going.

“It’s nothing personal against the people that worked there,” he said of the Take 2 Video store, which he burglarized, and Clark’s Market, which he helped rob at gunpoint. “It’s just about the money.

“We thought we were kind of being heroes, but we were taking a lot more than money,” he continued, explaining that he had robbed the community of a sense of security and trust in its youth.

But the judge declined to go along with the suggested sentencing alternatives, and instead agreed with Assistant District Attorney Lawson Wills’ statement that “this is a Department of Corrections case.”

The sentence came after Ognacevic’s four sisters, parents, girlfriend and the victim of one of the crimes he committed all asked the judge to not send him to regular prison, noting that he had already paid restitution to his victims. They maintained that the six months he has spent in the county jail have made Ognacevic a new, more mature and better person.

The victim, Robin Smith, was owner of the Take 2 video store that Ognacevic burglarized on July 4, 1999. Ognacevic had been working at the video store, and Smith called him “a star employee” with whom she had “a special connection.”

After she implored the judge not to send Ognacevic to prison, DeVilbiss remarked, “You are an extraordinarily gracious victim, Miss Smith.”

Prosecutor Wills, noting the support and love from the family, said, “I need to add a little realism here as to what happened.”

He said Ognacevic helped plan the Clark’s robbery, stood by while the others prepared, went into the store to check it out and call with the all-clear sign, and then stood watch outside while others “went in and pointed guns in people’s faces.”

He also drove the getaway car, Wills said, and got an even share of the money because “he did an equal share of the work.”

Through the summer, Wills said, Ognacevic was “a full participant in this group,” planning the Take 2 heist, helping a co-defendant hide goods stolen from the local high school, and meeting several others when they called him in Boulder on their way to sell two stolen cars.

“Yuri Ognacevic knew what was going on all summer, and he failed to remove himself from it,” Wills said.


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