Teen sentenced to prison for spring Aspen crime spree
A Fort Collins teen pleaded guilty Monday to participating in a crime spree in Aspen and Snowmass Village in April and was sentenced to three years in prison.
Caleb Rucker, however, will likely spend more than three years in the Colorado Department of Corrections because of a previous case from Larimer County that is expected to cost him a seven year sentence behind bars, according to the District Court judge who sentenced him Monday.
“I did it to myself,” Rucker said. “All I ask for, your honor, at this time is mercy.”
Rucker, 19, was staying with Perry Vresilovic, a local resident, at an apartment in Snowmass Village when the two teens allegedly broke into another apartment in the complex and stole several items, including a drone, jewelry and a glass bong, according to a police officer’s affidavit filed in Pitkin County District Court.
Not long after, the two men allegedly stole three cars and broke into seven others in the Aspen area. Vresilovic, 19, was later arrested after he was found hiding in a bedroom at Rucker’s girlfriend’s home in the North 40 neighborhood, where police also found keys to the three stolen vehicles and items taken from the seven break-ins, according to the affidavit.
Rucker pleaded guilty Monday to two counts of felony first-degree criminal trespassing — one to a building, the other to a vehicle — and faced between two and six years in prison. Rucker had previously been sentenced to seven years in the state’s Community Corrections program after pleading guilty to two felony counts of motor vehicle theft and two felony counts of motor vehicle trespassing from Larimer County, prosecutor Don Nottingham said Monday.
The Community Corrections sentence is likely to be converted to a simple prison sentence now, said District Judge Anne Norrdin.
Norrdin mulled over Rucker’s sentence Monday and said she thought adding more years to the seven Rucker is likely to already face behind bars was extreme for property crimes. She also cited Rucker’s age and the fact that a long prison sentence was likely to exacerbate the issues that led him to her courtroom in the first place.
“He could be there (in prison) for upwards of nine years,” Norrdin said. “I do find that to be disproportionate to the crimes involved here.”
Instead, Norrdin sentenced Rucker to three years in prison for the crimes committed in Pitkin County, though she ordered that they be served concurrently to the Larimer County sentence.
Rucker told the judge he is addressing issues involving substance abuse, addiction and mental health, and has a lot of support from his mother and fiancée.
Vresilovic is scheduled to appear Tuesday in front of Judge Norrdin.
In other court-related news:
• A Grand Junction man caught living in a Mountain Valley home in 2019 with another man who asserted “squatter’s rights” over the property pleaded guilty Monday to felony trespassing.
Tyler Parks, 36, was sentenced to one year of supervised probation for living in the home on Mountain Laurel Drive, where he was arrested in March 2019.
His attorney, public defender Ashley Andrews, said he only entered the guilty plea because he was stuck in jail in lieu of a $25,000 bond — he was arrested after failing to appear in court on the initial charges — and needed to get on with his life. She said he relied on the assurances from his co-defendant, Isaac Brehm, who said he had permission to be living in the home.
“I’m very gullible,” Parks said Monday in accepting the plea.
Nottingham and District Judge Chris Seldin cast doubt on Parks’ explanation about believing Brehm owned the home or had permission to live there. Still, Nottingham acknowledged that not only does Brehm appear to be the main culprit in the squatter scheme, he is most likely to be responsible for the stolen property found at the home.
Brehm, who is serving an unrelated sentence in an unspecified Colorado prison, also has prior felony convictions, while Parks criminal record is minor, he said.
• A Pitkin County District Court judge cast doubt Monday on a recent competency evaluation performed by state psychiatrists on a man who claims he’s the second coming of Jesus Christ and ordered another.
Andrew Johnston, 27, is charged with two counts of misdemeanor harassment for sending threatening emails to a Pitkin County commissioner and another government employee in April intimating that “shooting” and “killing” would occur. He also has been charged with felony stalking and previously pleaded guilty to second-degree assault/strangulation in connection with a 2020 domestic violence incident, Nottingham said.
Johnston attempted to fire his public defender during Judge Seldin’s bimonthly criminal docket Monday, and accept a plea deal from the District Attorney’s Office that called for as many as eight years in prison. Andrew’s lawyer, however, said that despite the diagnosis from doctors at the Colorado Mental Health Institute in Pueblo that Johnston is competent to stand trial, she still had concerns about it.
Seldin clearly shared those concerns and based on previous statements attributed to Johnston, asked him a pointed question during Monday’s virtual court hearing.
“Do you believe you are the Messiah?” the judge said.
“I am the second coming of Jesus Christ,” Johnston said. “I speak with God and have a close relationship with God and at one time I was Jesus Christ.”
Seldin quoted the competency evaluation as saying that Johnston concocts stories to manipulate the court and the court process. If that were the case, however, “he would not be telling me he was the second coming of Jesus Christ,” the judge said.
“I can’t square the foundation of that analysis,” Seldin said. “I’m not finding anything to support the conclusion that Mr. Johnston is fabricating his account of being the Messiah.”
Nottingham said there’s a difference between competency and sanity, and that he found no reason to object to the state’s conclusions about Johnston’s competency.
“Under the standards of competency, I won’t conclude this defendant is incompetent,” he said.
Seldin, nonetheless, ordered another competency evaluation.
Threatening social media post made to Aspen School District poses no threat to community, superintendent says
Aspen School District Superintendent Dave Baugh said a threat posted on social media on Sunday targeting Aspen schools did not pose a threat to the community.