Man who led police on chase receives two years’ probation

Andre Salvail
The Aspen Times

In Pitkin County District Court on Monday afternoon, James Regan offered a reason as to why he was distraught on the morning of Sept. 13 and phoned 911 to say he was armed and anticipating a confrontation with local law enforcement before leading police on a slow chase up Maroon Creek Road.

Someone, he said, had stolen his pre-paid credit card and charged $450 worth of items on without his permission. Regan added that he was frustrated because the theft investigation wasn’t moving as quickly as he would have liked. The night before his arrest, he drank heavily, he said, which compounded the problem.

“I kind of took my anger and frustration out on them,” he said of Aspen-area authorities. “I would like to apologize to all of the officers involved.”

Later, he added, “It was a big mistake, and there was a reason behind it — somebody stole my card.”

Authorities found him in his car near Aspen Highlands around 8 a.m. that day. He drove away for a short distance, then got out of the car. Police subdued him with beanbag rounds and arrested him. The Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office reported that he had a knife in his possession.

Through a plea agreement arranged with the 9th Judicial District Attorney’s Office, Regan will receive a two-year deferred judgment on his guilty plea to vehicular eluding, which is a felony. Judge Gail Nichols handed down the terms of his supervised probation during Monday’s sentencing hearing.

Regan must submit to random alcohol and drug tests, including screenings for synthetic drugs. He must write letters of apology to the Aspen Police Department and the Sheriff’s Office, the primary agencies that tried to find him following the distressed phone calls.

He must participate in substance-abuse and mental-health evaluations. He must take all prescribed medications. He cannot commit any new offenses, save for minor traffic violations. He must be polite to law-enforcement personnel if they make contact with him or if he passes them on the street.

“I’m very concerned that this works,” Nichols told Regan, who has been held in Pitkin County Jail on $100,000 bond since his arrest 13 weeks ago. “Certainly to keep you in jail doesn’t help anyone.”

When Regan pleaded guilty in early November, the initial arrangement with the District Attorney’s Office required Regan to participate in a mental-health court program. However, the committee that selects nonviolent offenders for the program ended up rejecting Regan’s application.

Aspen prosecutor Andrea Bryan voiced concern about the disposition of Regan’s case.

“It’s still unclear as to what caused this behavior,” Bryan said, adding that Regan has continued to express a defensive attitude about his actions.

She suggested that Regan should receive “intensive” supervised probation, but both she and Nichols said it was unlikely that the probation department would go along with the recommendation because Regan is a first-time adult offender.

Nichols said Regan’s pre-sentencing report by the probation office was filled with contradictions. For example, Regan stated that he never worked, although he recently was employed on a New Mexico oil rig. Regan also said that he never abused alcohol, even though he admitted in court that he had.

Asked about his responses for the report, Regan said, “I don’t want to say or do anything that’s going to cause a problem. I have my best interests in mind.”

Nichols told Regan that he appeared to be “very, very intelligent” but added that sometimes smart people are capable of poor decisions.

“They think so much their brain gets overloaded,” she said. “Clearly on that day your brain was not functioning properly.”

Also in court, Regan interrupted the judge’s comments to complain about the beanbag rounds police used to subdue him.

“I thought I was gonna die,” he said. “It was just extremely painful.”

Defense attorney Mark Rubinstein said he believes Regan no longer is angry and blaming others for his behavior.

“I think he is ashamed of his choices,” Rubinstein said. “I think he’s more than ready to move on with his life.”

During the Sept. 13 search for Regan, the Aspen School District conducted a 15-minute lockout at its campus off Maroon Creek Road.