Teens advised on auto theft charges
ASPEN – Two teen boys were advised Monday on a series of felony offenses in connection to an alleged automobile-theft spree that happened during the last week of October.
Each defendant had separate hearings in the chambers of Pitkin County District Judge Gail Nichols.
The two are accused of committing a string of vehicle thefts in Pitkin, Garfield and Routt counties, and currently are being held in a juvenile detention facility in Grand Junction.
They were transported to Aspen for Monday’s hearing, during which time Nichols explained the charges and penalties they face. Nichols, while outlying the offenses, noted that there were five victims in the Aspen area.
The oldest of the two defendants, a 16-year-old, was accompanied by his mother, of El Jebel, during Monday’s advisement.
He faces five counts: aggravated theft of a motor vehicle valued more than $20,000; aggravated theft of a vehicle less than $20,000; two counts of first-degree criminal trespassing of a vehicle; and one count of altering a vehicle by stealing its parts in order to sell them. Nichols appointed local defense attorney Garth McCarty to handle the charges in Pitkin County; McCarty also is defending the youth in Garfield County, where he was arrested Oct. 31 on similar charges.
The second suspect, a 14-year-old, appeared by himself and was advised of the same felony charges the older defendant faces. Additionally, the judge advised the younger defendant that he faces a misdemeanor theft charge for allegedly taking a bag with items ranging from $500 to $1,000 from one of the vehicle theft victims, and another count of vehicle trespassing.
The 14-year-old, who was arrested Oct. 30 by Garfield County sheriff’s deputies, did not have legal representation at Monday’s advisement, but Nichols noted that the Public Defender’s Office is handling his cases on both ends of the valley.
Both defendants asked if they could speak, but the judge implored them not to since their lawyers were not present.
“What if it wasn’t my decision to steal them cars?” the 14-year-old asked Nichols. The judge, in return, advised him not to speak any further.
If convicted, each suspect faces potential punishments of up to years in the custody of the Division of Youth Corrections. Or, they could be sentenced to the custody of the Department of Social Services until they are 21 years old.
In a press release issued after the teens’ arrests, the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office said both defendants are believed to be members of the criminal Sureno gang. The investigation into the vehicle thefts involved law-enforcement agents in Garfield and Pitkin Counties, Aspen and New Castle police, and ICE Homeland Security Investigations.
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An Aspen conservation non-profit wants permission from Pitkin County to establish a low-impact nature education and camping area near Ashcroft on a plot of land originally approved for a single family home.