Theatre Aspen robber sentenced to jail, probation

A local man who admitted to robbing the Theatre Aspen concession stand with a screwdriver last summer was sentenced Monday to 270 days in jail and six years of probation.

Yuri Ognacevic, 39, pleaded guilty a month ago to aggravated robbery with a deadly weapon and two counts of possession of a weapon by a previous offender.

Ognacevic was part of a crew of 12 Aspen teens responsible for a string of robberies and burglaries in Aspen and Snowmass Village in 1999. He was convicted of robbery in 1999 for his role in an armed holdup of Clark’s Market in Aspen and sentenced to four years in prison.

On Monday, prosecutor Don Nottingham noted that most felons sent to prison either learn their lesson and stay out of trouble afterward, or immediately get back into trouble once they’re released.

“Neither here applies,” Nottingham noted. “That was a big determining factor keeping the prosecution from requesting a prison sentence.”

Ognacevic entered the Theatre Aspen tent at Rio Grande Park on July 9, 2019, during the intermission of “Guys and Dolls” wearing a hat, sunglasses and a bandanna over his face. He approached a 19-year-old woman and two others serving drinks and snacks and allegedly held a small, flathead screwdriver that was part of a Leatherman multi-tool in the 19-year-old’s face and demanded money.

He made off with $250, a Theatre Aspen official later said.

Ognacevic also was charged with snatching two purses from the back of chairs at outdoor restaurant patios in the downtown area while riding a bicycle around the same time, though charges related to those alleged crimes were dismissed as part of his plea deal.

Soon after he was arrested last summer, police searched his home and found an AR-15 rifle, two other rifles and a 9mm handgun as well as more than 100 rounds of ammunition. He was not allowed to possess firearms because he was previously convicted of a felony.

Nottingham said Monday that one of victims of the Theatre Aspen robbery told him she didn’t feel like she was in danger at the time, but that the event has affected her life over the past year because it’s taken time to process. Another said he also didn’t feel in danger, though he recognized things could have gone a different way if they didn’t hand over the money. The third said she was not affected, he said.

Ognacevic submitted a written statement to the court describing his actions that wasn’t publicly available Monday, though Nottingham said the statement provided a “believable” explanation. Nottingham later declined to comment further.

The only statement Ognacevic made in court Monday centered on his not knowing that he couldn’t possess firearms and that he bought them legally.

“There are many features of this case that are head-scratchers,” District Judge Chris Seldin said.

The judge noted that there are many ways to steal money — burglary, embezzlement, breaking into cars in the middle of the night — that aren’t as public as stealing purses in broad daylight while riding a bike or robbing a concession stand at a popular summer event.

“It’s almost like you were begging for detection,” Seldin said.

The judge said he wanted to make sure that the root causes for Ognacevic’s actions were addressed during his probation, which will be supervised for the first four years and unsupervised for the last two.

Ognacevic, who will have to pay $852 in restitution to victims, was allowed to report to the Pitkin County Jail on Tuesday evening to begin his sentence.