Teen sentenced to 18 months in juvenile center
ASPEN – A 17-year-old was sentenced Monday to 18 months in the Colorado Division of Youth Services in connection to a series of transgressions over the last year in Pitkin County.The sentence, issued by Pitkin County District Judge Gail Nichols, comes after the former Basalt High School student was arrested in El Jebel’s Blue Lake subdivision on Feb. 22 for allegedly threatening to shoot a handgun upon learning that he was being transported to a school in Utah. The sentence is not related to pending charges related to that incident, which was noted during the hearing, held in the judge’s chambers.The youth explained that “I freaked out and got scared” when he learned he was being transported to Utah. “I don’t want to live on the run,” said the teenager, who has been in the custody of a juvenile facility in Denver since last month’s arrest. Assistant District Attorney Arnold Mordkin said the boy has agreed to plead guilty to the handgun incident and the charge will be dismissed. The prevailing concern right now, Mordkin noted, is for the boy to rehabilitate himself and lead a productive life.Nichols agreed.”You clearly have a very good brain and you’re articulate and speak well,” she said. “But it’s not going to be easy. You’re really going to have to work hard.”According to testimony in Monday’s hearing, the youth’s sentence stems from check forgery and other charges. In November, he was arrested at Basalt High School after police allegedly found a knife in his school locker.The boy’s mother and father attended the hearing as well. The father expressed some dissatisfaction with the judicial system as it applies to youth, calling some court decisions a “lot of educated guesses and hopes” that aren’t always “what’s best for our youth.””My biggest concern for [my son] is that he gets help,” the father said. “I don’t want him to be in the youth center and see him get out and get in trouble again. … This is a very confusing system for parents.”Nichols agreed that oftentimes “our best educated guesses” are the only tools judges and lawyers have when trying to determine an appropriate resolution for a criminal case. “None of us know what’s going to make [the defendant] succeed,” she said. “It’s all educated guesses.” She then told the boy: “I do think that this disposition, given your history, you need to be in a very structured environment.”Likewise, defense attorney Greg Greer said he hopes the boy will take advantage of the programs offered to him at the Division of Youth Services. According to web material from the Colorado Department of Education, the Division of Youth Services “administers a statewide continuum of services and programs to assess, treat and control youth aged 10 to 21 placed in its care for delinquent behavior. DYS programs serve detained and committed youths. Services may be provided, as appropriate, to assist youth to transition back into their community, such as academic and vocation training, independent living, and employment services.”The teenager could be released and placed on parole before his 18-month term runs out, provided he demonstrates progress and an ability to function in society without committing crimes.”They’re not going to let you out until they think you’ll be successful on parole,” Nichols said, adding that “my sense is it will take a while to prove to them that you are qualified for parole.”The youth said he wants to get on the right track. “I screwed up and I get it … I did some stupid stuff. I plan on using this to get my life together.”After the hearing, Mordkin shook the boy’s hand and wished him good luck. That was in contrast to previous court hearings, as noted by the father, who said he once considered the prosecutor an adversary. At Monday’s hearing, the father called Mordkin an “advocate” for his son.
Editor’s note: The Aspen Times does not publish names of juvenile defendants. While juvenile court hearings are open to the public, court documents are sealed from public firstname.lastname@example.org