Oldfield pleads guilty in marijuana case | AspenTimes.com

Oldfield pleads guilty in marijuana case

Naomi Havlen
Aspen Times Staff Writer

An Aspen resident whose home was destroyed by a fire that led police to search his residence last summer pleaded guilty to possession of marijuana with intent to distribute on Monday.

Barney Oldfield, 51, was arrested after a fire swept through the Aspen View Condominiums on Midland Avenue. The fire began on Oldfield’s third-floor balcony, fire officials determined, and approximately 5.5 pounds of marijuana and other drug paraphernalia were allegedly found in the unit by police during a subsequent search.

Under a plea agreement, Oldfield will face an unspecified amount of probation and a maximum of 90 days in jail. This is Oldfield’s first felony conviction.

As part of the plea deal, $8,000 in cash that a volunteer firefighter found in Oldfield’s apartment and gave to police for safekeeping is to be donated to Aspen Medical Foundation’s Right Door Project. The project is working to create a location in Aspen where the sober community can attend support group meetings.

“We’re trying to give back to the community what, in our view, has been taken,” Assistant District Attorney Lawson Wills said in court yesterday.

The guilty plea is to the most serious of the charges that Oldfield faced. The other charges included possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia.

Wills said marijuana possession with intent to distribute usually comes with a potential penalty of two to eight years in prison, with a 16-year maximum based on aggravating circumstances. It also comes with three years of parole and a $2,000-$500,000 fine.

Oldfield said little during the arraignment. He did answer the judge’s question of why he was pleading guilty. “Because I was in violation of the law, your honor,” he said.

He will be sentenced May 3 at 1:30 p.m. Wills said Judge Jim Boyd of the 9th Judicial District can throw out the plea agreement if he determines the sentencing arrangement to be insufficient.

“I think this sentence addresses the situation since [Oldfield] pleaded guilty to the most serious count,” Wills said after the arraignment. “I never thought it was a Department of Corrections case, and this is a good disposition for all parties.”

The fire was determined to have been arson, though no one was ever arrested for the crime. Aspen Police Detective Jim Crowley said he’s hopeful that Oldfield’s disposition will bring some closure for the residents of the Aspen View condominiums. He said Oldfield’s involvement in the blaze seems certain.

“Given the fact that he has pleaded guilty to dealing drugs out of that apartment, and assuming that it was an arson, it appears that he was targeted in some way,” Crowley said. “[Oldfield] has maintained all along that he has no idea why the fire would have been set or who might have set it.”

[Naomi Havlen’s e-mail address is nhavlen@aspentimes.com]