Three-time felon gets a softer rule |

Three-time felon gets a softer rule

Charles Agar
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN ” Former Aspen crime-spree leader and three-time felon Moses Greengrass got a second-chance Monday when a district judge sentenced him to three years in community corrections.

Greengrass was sentenced in connection to a felony conviction for attempted possession of more than 1 gram of cocaine. Run by the Colorado Department of Corrections, the community corrections program is an alternative to prison.

The new sentence, delivered by Pitkin County District Judge James Boyd, will begin in August 2009, after Greengrass completes parole for earlier felonies.

Greengrass was convicted in 1999 of two felony robbery charges and served seven years for his role in a crime spree involving local teenagers in a string of armed robberies in the upper valley.

It will be up to a parole board to decide if he’ll return to prison before his new sentence begins. Greengrass has been held in Pitkin County Jail since he was arrested March 23, 2007.

He had only been out of prison for a short time when he was arrested by an Aspen officer who witnessed what he what he thought was Greengrass in a drug transaction.

Greengrass fled on foot, and after he was stopped, officers found some 38 grams of cocaine in a coat belonging to Greengrass ” enough to make 76 half-gram bindles.

“This is a lot of cocaine,” said Deputy District Attorney Gail Nichols in her argument at Monday’s sentencing hearing.

In an earlier deal, Greengrass pleaded guilty to intent to possess cocaine in exchange for having the more serious charges dropped. If he’d been convicted on earlier charges of intent to sell and possession of more than 25 grams charges, he could have faced up to 24 years in prison.

Nichols conceded that Greengrass had done a lot to change in his one year in Pitkin County Jail on probation violation.

Jailers, who aren’t easily hoodwinked, Nichols said, told her office of Greengrass’ good conduct ” something that carries weight, she said.

Nichols, however, cited Greengrass’ long criminal history, beginning with charges at age 14, and presented evidence of a website for a rap group that Greengrass belonged to, Rhyme Crime, which glorified Greengrass’ criminal history at the time of his crime.

Despite his supportive family, good looks, charisma, intelligence and talent, Nichols said Greengrass’ repeated crimes are “perplexing.”

The quantity of cocaine in the 2007 arrest alone, Nichols said, was evidence that it wasn’t a first-time thing for Greengrass.

She recommended Greengrass be given three years in prison.

Defense counsel Garth McCarty made a dramatic plea for his client, saying Greengrass had “turned a corner” and that prison would only bring him in more contact with the criminal life Greengrass was trying to leave behind.

“The last thing he needs is more prison time,” McCarty said.

Despite problems as a young person ” McCarty pointed to anger and frustration as a child of poverty in Aspen schools that were filled with entitled kids ” and being in the court system since the age of 18, Greengrass has changed, McCarty said.

Holding up a purple rose, McCarty told Judge Boyd about Greengrass’ efforts to sell paper flowers Greengrass had made to raise some $1,000 for a local nonprofit.

“He did this on his own,” McCarty said, saying Greengrass didn’t want the judge to know about it.

Greengrass was a “peacemaker” and a role model in the county jail, McCarty said.

He asked Boyd to sentence Greengrass to three years in community corrections, a place where McCarty said Greengrass would “make us proud,” and asked that parole and new sentencing run concurrently.

“It’s pretty embarrassing to be here. I am ashamed,” Greengrass said, holding back tears as he addressed the judge. “I had an opportunity and I threw it away.”

Greengrass said how he was living at the time of his arrest in 2007 ” selling drugs and living a gangster lifestyle ” was “pathetic.”

“I just want to do something extraordinary with my life,” Greengrass said.

After deliberating, Judge Boyd handed him that chance.

Boyd expressed concern over the “significant amount of drugs” and Greengrass’ repeat felonies, but weighed the support (and letters) of family and friends as well as Greengrass’ activity in prison.

“It’s a big ‘if,'” Boyd said of Greengrass’ alleged jail-house change, but said that testimony of the jail staff carried weight, as did Greengrass’ own admission of guilt and accountability.

“You have the opportunity to make this the end of your criminal career and the beginning of the rest of your life,” Boyd said.

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