Phone conversations could prove key in murder case against former Aspenite
ASPEN – Former Aspen socialite Pamela Phillips’ quest to suppress recorded telephone conversations she had with an alleged hit man is headed back to a lower court.
The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Friday that incriminating recorded conversations between Phillips and Ronald Young did not violate Phillips’ right to privacy. The court sent the matter back to the U.S. District Court.
Phillips, 52, was arrested in December in Austria. She is awaiting extradition to the United States, where she faces first-degree murder charges in Pima County, Ariz.
Authorities allege she paid Young $400,000 to kill her ex-husband, Gary Triano, so she could collect on a $2 million life insurance policy. Phillips and Triano, who was a real estate investor and developer, divorced in 1993. Triano was killed when his Lincoln Town Car exploded in the parking lot at the La Paloma Country Club in Tucson, Ariz., on Nov. 1, 1996. He was 52.
Phillips had argued that her right to privacy was violated when Young recorded telephone conversations the two had about payment for the alleged hit job. Authorities seized the recordings when they searched Young’s belongings in Florida, after his arrest in November 2005.
The recordings were subsequently used to obtain a search warrant for Phillips’ Aspen residence, which authorities inspected in September 2006.
“For the purpose of this appeal … the recorded conversations indicate [Phillips] agreed to pay Mr. Young to murder her ex-husband, but the timeliness of her payments was in dispute,” the appellate court wrote in a 23-page ruling.
Phillips had claimed that Young recorded the telephone conversations without her knowledge, for the “purpose of committing a criminal or tortuous act, including … violation of privacy, extreme and outrageous conduct, intentional infliction of emotional distress, defamation of character, and/or improper recording of private communications for improper use and disclosure.”
The appellate court disagreed, citing case law and reasoning that Young might have had other motives to record the conversations.
“More plausible reasons exist for Mr. Young making the recordings, including to protect himself against any future conduct by Ms. Phillips in implicating him alone in her husband’s murder,” the court wrote. “In the event Ms. Phillips did implicate him or he was later arrested, it is also plausible he sagaciously made the recordings to provide himself leverage with the government for a reduced sentence if he assisted in proving Ms. Phillips’ participation in the murder.
“It is also possible he made the recordings for the purpose of ensuring she paid him for the murder he committed, which, admittedly, amounts to extortion or other criminal conduct, but which is not alleged in [Phillips’] complaint,” the court wrote.
Young, 67, is scheduled to stand trial Feb. 22 for first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit first-degree murder. The trial is scheduled for six weeks.
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Eagle County will go to Stage 2 fire restrictions Friday, joining Pitkin County and other state and federal lands in the area.