One year of probation for area man accused of threatening teens
July 17, 2012
ASPEN – Accused of threatening three teenagers who said they were attempting to turn a vehicle around in his driveway, Aspen-area resident Charles Ellis Hall pleaded guilty Monday to a single charge of conspiracy to commit false imprisonment and was sentenced to one year of unsupervised probation.
In addition to the probation term, Pitkin County District Judge Gail Nichols also ordered Hall, 57, to complete 24 hours of counseling for anger-management issues. His admission of guilt and sentencing followed Nichols’ reading of a plea agreement reached with the District Attorney’s Office that waives Hall’s right to a jury trial on three felony counts of menacing with a real or simulated weapon and three misdemeanor charges of false imprisonment.
On Feb. 3, Hall allegedly threatened three teenage boys and tried to hold them against their will after they claimed they were lost and were merely trying to use the driveway of his Meadowood subdivision home to turn around. The Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office arrested him March 20 following an investigation.
As Nichols read the agreement to Hall, a process that required him to answer “yes” or “no” for the court record, Hall spoke softly and shook his head in an apparent sign of reluctance. A few times, Nichols asked Hall to speak up so that his admission of guilt and agreement to the plea would be clear.
“You seem very unhappy, but I need to make sure this is what you want,” Nichols told Hall.
She reminded Hall that by agreeing to plead guilty to the single charge, he was waiving his right to a jury trial in the case. She also pointed out that she could reject the deal.
Recommended Stories For You
“It’s very obvious that you feel the system was not fair to you,” Nichols said. “But this is the resolution, and we’re going to live with that.”
After Nichols accepted the arrangement, Hall’s remarks were brief.
“I would like to say that I live in a private subdivision that is posted ‘no trespassing.’ My driveway is a private driveway. They had no right to confront me,” Hall said.
In May, following Hall’s initial court appearance, defense attorney Richard Cummins told The Aspen Times that Hall acted lawfully at the time and perceived the teens as a threat.
“He was worried about his property and his own personal safety,” Cummins said, adding that Hall did not know the teenagers and “perceived (their presence) as a potential threat.”
The boys, however, contended they were lost and were simply trying to back out of Hall’s driveway before he pinned in the vehicle with his truck and threatened them with a gun.
An affidavit from Pitkin County Sheriff’s Deputy George Kremer states that the Sheriff’s Office received a phone call at 9:38 p.m. on Feb. 3 regarding a disturbance in the driveway of Hall’s house at 279 Larkspur Lane, near the campus of Aspen’s public schools.
One of the boys said Hall told them he had a gun, prompting Kremer to report to the scene some 20 minutes later.
There, Kremer saw a Land Rover driven by one of the three boys – two 17 years old and one 16 – in Hall’s driveway. The vehicle was blocked in the driveway by a pickup truck that Hall had parked there. Hall told Kremer that the boys had been “aggressive” toward him and he believed they were trespassing on his property, according to the affidavit.
“Hall admitted that he had blocked the juvenile’s vehicle from leaving with his pickup truck,” Kremer wrote. “Hall began to get very agitated and escalated his behavior toward me, nearly yelling that it wasn’t fair that the juveniles were not going to be arrested and that people for years had trespassed on his property and that I wouldn’t do anything about this trespass.”
Kremer, however, said that the teens would not be arrested and suggested to Hall that he calm down, the affidavit says. Later, Kremer asked Hall whether he had threatened the boys with a firearm.
“He told me he had not done or said so,” Kremer said.
Kremer then directed an Aspen police officer to drive the Land Rover off the property and return it to one of the boys, the affidavit says.
Later, Kremer interviewed the juveniles. One of them told the deputy that he was lost in the subdivision, and “when he pulled into the driveway to turn around, he noticed a large pickup had pulled in behind him in the driveway, blocking him from leaving,” the affidavit says.
The boy said that Hall accused him of trespassing, called him a “f—ing punk” and deemed his two companions “punks,” as well. The boy also told Kremer that Hall placed his right hand into his partially unzipped jacket and said that he had a gun and knew how to use it, the affidavit says.
“(The boy) then told me that he was in fear for his life and that he ran off into the snow and scrub brush to get away from Hall,” Kremer wrote. The teen also told Kremer he thought he “was going to die at 17.”
Meanwhile, the other two boys stuck around momentarily before leaving, the affidavit says. One of them told Kremer that “no car is worth my life, so we left.”
In other court business Monday:
• Nichols sentenced Michael M. Kulik, 26, to three years of supervised probation. His case stemmed from theft and credit-card-fraud charges leveled against him early this year. He also was ordered to pay restitution to his victims.
Aspen police arrested Kulik on Feb. 8 on a warrant out of Snowmass Village. He was wanted on suspicion of using another person’s credit card to rack up charges at the Silvertree Hotel and Zane’s Tavern. Kulik also was accused of fraud charges related to a bill at La Palapa restaurant in Aspen. In addition, he had been arrested on Jan. 31 and accused of pocketing customers’ deposits placed on ski rentals while working at Aspen Sports on the Cooper Avenue pedestrian mall.
• A preliminary hearing was set for 9 a.m. on Aug. 1 for a drug case involving Thomas J. Simmons, 22, of Aspen. Early this year, prosecutor Arnold Mordkin filed charges against Simmons on suspicion of distribution of a Schedule I substance – Ecstasy, LSD and mushrooms. Mordkin also filed separate counts of possession of a Schedule II substance, cocaine, and felony charges of possession of more than 4 grams of Ecstasy, mushrooms and cocaine.
The drug arrests, however, came after the initial arrest of Simmons on suspicion of evidence tampering, an act that Aspen police said Simmons committed Christmas Eve at Belly Up following the Ecstasy-distribution arrest of another young man. Police, in an affidavit to the arrest warrant, said they had obtained video evidence from the Belly Up that showed Simmons trying to move the drug out of plain view by sliding it with his feet, moving it with his hand and holding a door frame over it.
By doing so, Simmons had tampered with evidence, police said.
A wrench might have been thrown into the prosecutor’s case, however, when the Police Department later admitted that it “recognized an individual other than the person originally identified, Simmons, may have committed the offense of tampering with evidence.”