Sex assault suspect pleads guilty to trespassing
Prosecutors dropped sexual assault and incest charges against an Aspen man Thursday in exchange for a guilty plea in a theft case.The plea deal, announced in court Thursday, came after the girl’s mother decided not to have her daughter testify against her father. His name is not being released to protect the girl’s identity.The defendant pleaded guilty to first-degree trespassing in a vehicle. On May 3, 2004, he stole a wedding ring valued at more than $15,000 from a car parked at the Sunnyside Trail on Cemetery Lane, deputy district attorney Gail Nichols said.He was arrested for that crime in October, three months after he was charged with molesting his daughter. He had originally been charged with aggravated incest and sexual assault on a child by one in a position of trust.The mother said it was an agonizing choice to agree to the plea deal.”This has been the hardest decision I have ever made in my life,” she said in a prepared statement. “Because of the rules of evidence and her age and the fact that she would have to testify to what her father did to her, with him 12 to 15 feet away, I’m just afraid she would be victimized all over again.”The father could be sentenced to between one and three years in prison and be required to pay a fine of between $1,000 and $100,000. He will be sentenced March 6.The man must also undergo a psychosexual evaluation and abide by the evaluator’s recommendations.Nichols said she could not discuss an ongoing case.The prosecutor who filed the original charges, former deputy district attorney Andrew Heyl, criticized the deal. Heyl was hired by former District Attorney Colleen Truden and was replaced when she was recalled.”I’m not going to second-guess Gail, but I thought it was a strong case,” he said. “It’s ironic that [Truden opponents] gave us so much grief when we made a similar decision” to drop a case against a Silt man charged with multiple counts of sexual assault on children.In other court news Thursday: Judge James Boyd rejected Cinthia Romero’s attempt to get a new trial.The Bakersfield, Calif., resident was convicted of attempted murder and assault with a deadly weapon Nov. 17. She and her then-boyfriend beat a friend near Independence Pass in October 2004.Wearing blue jeans and leg cuffs, Romero sat beside her attorney, Arnie Mordkin. He argued that the jury’s verdict contained inconsistencies because jurors filled out a form incorrectly.Nichols said inconsistent verdicts are acceptable.”It’s just a fact that goes along with a jury trial,” she said.Boyd agreed, saying the jury’s intent was what mattered. He rejected the motion for a new trial and set her sentencing for March 20. A Carbondale man suspected of assaulting two teenagers near Mount Sopris was taken back into custody after his bond was revoked.One of the conditions of parole for Billy Joe Knoeppchen, 28, was to live with his mother. But Nichols said the suspect was living in a camper at a Carbondale church.Knoeppchen said his mother was arrested for assaulting him, forcing him to move out. Boyd said he had still violated his bond and ordered him back to jail. The judge later appointed Mordkin to represent Knoeppchen, who is charged with first- and second-degree assault. He pleaded not guilty Thursday, and Boyd scheduled a three-day jury trial May 2. A bill collector who worked for Aspen Valley Hospital and Alpine Medical Group pleaded guilty to stealing patients’ credit card numbers and using them for his own purchases.Andre Jesus Lozano, 41, of Basalt pleaded guilty to theft of between $500 and $15,000. He faces two to six years in prison. He’ll be sentenced Feb. 21. Martha Byrum of Snowmass Village pleaded guilty to cocaine possession, second-degree trespassing and a probation violation.Byrum, 32, was arrested in October for walking into Aspen Police Chief Loren Ryerson’s home in Snowmass Village while trying to elude police. Nichols said Byrum had 4 grams of cocaine when she was arrested.She will likely receive a deferred judgment when she is sentenced March 6, meaning her record will be wiped clean if she stays out of trouble.Chad Abraham’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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It’s that time of year — hikers and mountain bikers must be aware that seasonal closures are taking effect on multiple trails in the area today for the winter for the benefit of wildlife.