Rizzuto’s second trial begins today | AspenTimes.com

Rizzuto’s second trial begins today

John Colson

The second trial of Anthony Rizzuto starts today, concerning charges that on Aug. 6, 1999, he and another young man robbed the Aspen Alps condominium office at gunpoint.

Rizzuto, 20, was found guilty of conspiracy to commit burglary in another case late last year and is awaiting sentencing on that conviction.

Judge J.E. DeVilbiss declined to name a sentencing date at the end of that earlier trial, which was over charges that Rizzuto and three others burglarized a home in the Twining Flats neighborhood west of Aspen. Rizzuto faces up to three years in prison for the conspiracy conviction.

The two cases stem from a series of crimes committed by a dozen local teenagers in August and September of 1999, ranging from burglaries of businesses and a home to armed robbery at several area businesses.

All 12 teens, many of whom are natives of the Aspen area and lifelong friends, have either confessed or been found guilty of participating in various parts of the crime spree.

According to police, Rizzuto and friend Thomas Colver robbed the Aspen Alps condominium office last August, making off with a little over $1,000 in cash.

Colver, 20, has pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of robbery. He also was convicted of felony drug charges in an unrelated case, and the two crimes together netted him six years in state prison.

If Rizzuto is found guilty of armed robbery, he could be looking at up to 12 years in prison, in addition to whatever sentence he receives for the conspiracy conviction.

The jury that convicted Rizzuto on the conspiracy charge in mid-December deliberately chose that charge over other, more serious counts filed by District Attorney Lawson Wills, according to a member of the jury.

The juror, who declined to be identified, said the jury’s general feeling was that the DA’s office had “overcharged” Rizzuto by accusing him of five felonies. Judge DeVilbiss at one time warned Rizzuto that, if he were convicted on all counts, he was facing a potential prison term of 98 years.

Courthouse observers have cautioned against reading too much into the statements of a single juror. But some have wondered whether the decision in the Twining Flats case might be a signal to Wills that the Alps case may pose similar difficulties to local jurors.

In both cases, much of the prosecution’s evidence is in the form of confessions made to police and statements made in court by various teens involved in the crime spree.

Jury selection in the Alps robbery case is expected to start this morning and be finished by the end of the day. The trial is set to continue through Friday.

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