Robbery nets teen six years |

Robbery nets teen six years

John Colson

Stefan Schutter, one of a dozen local youths implicated in a crime spree last year in Aspen and Snowmass Village, was sentenced Monday to six years in a prison for youthful offenders for the Aug. 19, 1999, armed robbery of the Snowmass Village Market.

The sentence was a third of the number of years recommended by Special Prosecutor John Clune.

Clune is an Eagle County deputy district attorney who was called in when the local district attorney was forced off the case. He asked Judge Thomas Ossola to send Schutter, who recently turned 18, to prison for 18 years.

The sentence also was only two years shorter than the prison term offered in the final plea bargain negotiation between Clune and Schutter’s defense team, a deal that Schutter rejected.

Because of the regulations governing the Youth Offender Services facility in Pueblo, he must serve the entire length of the sentence, as well as a year of parole following his release. Unless, that is, he flunks out of the facility’s rigorous disciplinary, educational and counseling regimen, in which case he will be sent to serve a 10-year sentence in the adult prison system with a mandatory five-year parole.

Had he been sent directly to an adult prison in the Department of Corrections system, he might have been eligible for parole within four or five years.

As it is, he will be at the same facility where another of the teenage criminals, Cody Wille, also 18, was sent for a three-year term.

Judge Ossola pronounced the sentence after a five-hour hearing involving testimony from a criminologist, a psychologist and Schutter’s mother, grandmother and older brother.

Some of the testimony told of a savage childhood in Hawaii.

According to the testimony, his father, a powerful defense attorney, had adopted the son of one of his clients. Schutter reportedly was terrorized and “tortured” by that son, as were Schutter’s two natural brothers.

Witnesses spoke of Schutter’s feelings of “abandonment” after his mother and father divorced when he was 3 and his mother became “emotionally unavailable” to him. The psychologist said he may suffer from “bipolar” mental illness as a result of his traumatic childhood, including the suicide of a step-father in Aspen.

Schutter was smiling and chatting with his family and friends before the hearing began. At the end, however, he was weeping and struggling to speak as he told the judge he had realized the seriousness of his crimes and that he wanted another chance.

“I’m not asking you or telling you what to do,” he said to the judge. “I just want you to know that I have done what I could to make amends for my past. Maybe it’s too late. Thank you.”

Greg Miller, the night manager at the Snowmass Village Market who was clubbed by one of the robbers that night, declined to testify at the hearing.

Defense attorneys Jeralyn Merritt and Lisa Wayne asked the judge to forgo a prison term and send their client to a private treatment and counseling center in California, at his own expense. They cited his need for counseling and a safe environment in order to emerge from confinement as a productive member of society.

But Judge Ossola, after a lengthy and eloquent statement about his concerns over Schutter’s past, and about his vulnerability to the worst abuses of prison life, added that he had to take Miller’s terror that night into account in passing sentence.

“As needy as folks are, you can’t just take a gun and go into a business and hold it up and expect the end result will be to get your needs met,” he declared.

The judge gave Schutter credit for 105 days of pre-sentence confinement and ordered him to pay his share of more than $10,000 in restitution.

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Posted: Tuesday, November 28, 2000

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