Theft trial begins for Aspen jeweler William Evans
August 14, 2013
A jury was selected and opening arguments were presented Monday in the Pitkin County District Court trial of Aspen jeweler William Evans, who is accused of stealing an expensive bracelet from a woman who asked him to sell it for her.
In addition to the felony theft charge, Evans, 78, also faces a misdemeanor count of false reporting to authorities. Aspen police arrested him in early April 2012 after he claimed to them a little more than a month earlier that an 18-karat-gold ladies bracelet with diamonds had disappeared from the backseat of his car, which was parked in the City Market lot when he noticed the bracelet was missing.
At the time, police said conflicting statements Evans made about the bracelet's ownership and an insurance policy he took out three days before reporting it missing led them to suspect and arrest Evans.
Evans has maintained his innocence and told The Aspen Times the day after his arrest that he had been upset and confused during interrogations by Aspen Police Sgt. Dan Davis.
In the courtroom Monday, prosecutor Andrea Bryan said that the alleged victim in the case, local hotelier Terry Butler, trusted Evans to sell the bracelet and a ring for her during a time when her business was undergoing a downturn.
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Bryan said Evans told Butler when he picked up the bracelet and ring that with the items under his care, both would be insured. He planned to drive to California to have the jewelry appraised. Evans is not accused of stealing the ring.
"The defendant promised her that as soon as he walked out that door, the ring would be insured for $100,000 and the bracelet would be insured for $40,000," Bryan said during her opening statement. "And then, he turned around to her and he said, 'I need to make sure I don't leave it on the backseat of the car and someone steals it.'"
Butler will testify, Bryan said, that at the point when Evans made the comment, seemingly in jest, she should have become suspicious.
"It was the last time she would ever see her bracelet again," Bryan said.
Evans initially told Davis that he couldn't remember where he had purchased the bracelet, the prosecutor said, "that it had been in his family collection for about 20 years, that it was made in the 1950s and that it was worth about $15,000." Davis became suspicious because there were no obvious signs of a break-in to the rental car Evans was driving and that Evans seemed overly calm for someone who had $15,000 worth of jewelry stolen from his backseat.
In subsequent interviews with Davis, Evans became nervous and changed his story several times, Bryan said.
"The evidence will show the defendant tagged Terry Butler as an easy target and scammed her because she wanted to trust him," the prosecutor said. "He thought he could sell (the bracelet), report it stolen and then collect on the insurance, … but unfortunately for him, the police and Terry Butler saw right through his stories and his deception."
Defense attorney Lawson Wills characterized the prosecution as one that lacks solid evidence and relies on "rumor, innuendo, suspicion and emotion." He said there is no evidence that Evans ever profited on the sale of the bracelet or the insurance he took out, which happened to be a homeowner's policy, not something that would cover a business loss.
Wills criticized Davis' investigation, saying the police officer hardly looked into any possibilities aside from Evans' alleged role. He suggested that Evans became confused and upset during the interrogations because Davis was continually berating him.
"He does what is absolutely the riskiest, scariest thing that an officer can do with a defendant, which is put him in an interview where you don't have any information and say, 'You did it! Say you did it! … You're a liar; you're lying! You're going to jail! I will send you to prison!'" Wills said.
The trial resumes today at 8:30 a.m.