Police: New Aspen drug suspect the right one

Rick Carroll
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado

ASPEN – Aspen police believe they have cracked a case of mistaken identity with the arrest of two men over the weekend.

On Saturday, police arrested Aspen residents Alexander Eldon Weamer-Lee, 25, and Joseph Barmann, 24, on pending charges that the two tampered with evidence at a drug arrest Dec. 24 at the Belly Up nightclub. The two were released the same day on $2,500 personal-recognizance bonds. The tampering charges are felonies.

Police originally thought that the person who they say tampered with the evidence was Aspen resident Thomas Jade Simmons, 22. Using a warrant, police arrested Simmons on Feb. 4 on suspicion of tampering with evidence and later allegedly found him with cocaine and Ecstasy. That led police to obtain a warrant to search his apartment and car, where they say they found enough drugs to spawn distribution charges.

But on Feb. 11, prosecutor Arnold Mordkin filed court papers indicating he would not charge Simmons with tampering. That was because Aspen police said they realized it was not Simmons on Belly Up surveillance video trying to conceal the drugs that Max Puder allegedly dropped when police arrested him on suspicion of selling Ecstasy.

Police said they discovered that Simmons had been misidentified when they asked Belly Up manager Siobahn Green on Feb. 8 – four days after the Simmons arrest – to review the surveillance video. Green told police that when she saw Simmons’ mugshot in the Aspen newspapers, she realized it was not him in the video, according to an affidavit that Aspen Detective Ian MacAyeal wrote.

Green told police the person trying to kick away the drugs was a friend of oneof her former co-workers, according to the affidavit. MacAyeal wrote that he had her call the co-worker, Barmann, who said the tampering suspect was Weamer-Lee.

That led MacAyeal to phone Weamer-Lee, who said, “I think I know what this is about, that Belly Up thing?” MacAyeal wrote in the affidavit.

Weamer-Lee admitted to MacAyeal that he had seen Puder drop some drugs near the exit door of Belly Up, the affidavit said. He also confessed to picking up one bag of cocaine and using the drug later that evening, MacAyeal wrote.

Barmann, meanwhile, was working as the doorman at Belly Up the night in question and gave Weamer-Lee access to the discarded drugs, according to the affidavit.

“Barmann said he knew Weamer-Lee went to get the evidence dropped by Puder,” MacAyeal wrote. “He said he also knew Weamer-Lee was successful in taking one bag of the evidence dropped by Puder. Barmann said he allowed Weamer-Lee to access the evidence because they were friends. Barmann did not notify police or Belly Up manager Siobahn Green of Weamer-Lee’s actions.”

Simmons, meanwhile, still faces felony charges of distribution of Ecstasy, illegal mushrooms, cocaine and LSD.

At a Feb. 13 court hearing, public defender Tina Fang told Judge Gail Nichols that she would likely file motions to suppress the drug evidence since police collected it after they arrested Simmons on a tampering charge that is no longer substantiated.