‘Paperwork’ at courthouse ties up cops, bomb squad in Aspen
ASPEN – When a clerk at the Pitkin County Courthouse received a package at the Main Street building Thursday, her suspicions arose because of a phone conversation from the previous day.
That Wednesday, she had spoken to John Boyle, of Chicago, on the telephone. Boyle, who owns a Smuggler Trailer Park home, has been involved in at least two small-claims court cases in the past few months. He had asked that the clerk put him in touch with Alpine Legal Services, a nonprofit organization that provides free legal assistance to those who qualify. The clerk said she had no way of doing that.
“He told me that ‘I know they [Alpine Legal Services] meet Tuesday or Wednesday [in the Pitkin County Courthouse] so I’ll just deliver a bomb then.’ I said, ‘Pardon me?’ And he said, ‘I’m joking.'”
Boyle, in an interview last night, conceded that he chose his words poorly.
“It was just me making a bad statement, and I never should have said it,” he said.
But the damage had been done. Thursday, the clerk received an express package addressed to the Pitkin County Courthouse, with Boyle’s return address in Chicago. She immediately contacted law enforcement, and deputies Tom Grady and Adam Crider retrieved the approximate 6-by 8-inch envelope and put it in the “dog run,” a caged spot outside of the Pitkin County Jail where inmates periodically relax and enjoy the outdoors.
Local law enforcement, acting on advice of officials with the Transportation Security Administration who were in town to sort out details and logistics for the upcoming Winter X Games at Buttermilk Ski Area, then called in a bomb squad from Grand Junction and cordoned off the general courthouse area with police tape.
“Coincidentally the TSA was here,” said Brad Gibson, an investigator with the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office who was working the suspicious package case.
And, according to Sheriff Joe DiSalvo, the TSA said it was best to treat the envelope as a “live device” and call in the bomb squad from Grand Junction.
At 4:35 p.m., while the bomb squad was about 90 minutes en route to Aspen, the Aspen Police Department issued a press release advising residents to stay away from the immediate vicinity of the courthouse and jail because of the suspicious package, which Tom Grady, director of operations for the sheriff’s department, described as “very thin.”
All the while, sheriff’s officials were trying to reach Boyle, to no avail.
“They told me they couldn’t reach me on the phone,” said Boyle, who spoke to Gibson later last night after the incident had been cleared.
The bomb squad arrived on the scene at approximately 5:10 p.m., its lights and sirens blaring as the vehicle made a left turn off Main Street onto South Mill Street on its way to the jail.
At 6:10 p.m., after the suspicious article had been examined and X-rayed, officials said the package, delivered by the U.S. Postal Service, posed no harm.
“They ruled out that nothing [in the package] was mechanical, but also not hazardous,” said Undersheriff Ron Ryan.
The envelope’s contents, he said, were nothing more than “paperwork.”
Boyle said he had simply mailed some documents connected to legal activity in which he is involved in Pitkin County.
As law enforcement officials stood guard near one of the cordoned areas behind the courthouse, they all noted that these type of situations can never be taken too lightly, no matter what inconvenience might be posed.
Boyle agreed. “They’re not talking any chances and I’m not blaming them.”
He added: “I promised the sheriff’s office I would never say that again … I’m too old to be a bomber.”
Ryan would not say whether Boyle faces any criminal counts; however, Boyle said he was told he won’t be charged and he’s learned his lesson.
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