Trailer park manager convicted on criminal trespass charge
Former Aspen Village manager Thomas Bruening was convicted Friday of criminal trespass, a felony. He was acquitted of charges of theft and burglary.
Bruening was convicted for entering the Lindahl family residence at the trailer park without permission on Nov. 16, 1998, but after four hours of deliberation, the jury wasn’t convinced he used a screwdriver to jimmy a door open to steal a bottle of prescription medicine.
Bruening’s attorney John Van Ness expressed dissatisfaction with the verdict. “I was going for the win. Do you think Duke [University] is satisfied with second place?” he said, referring to the recently completed NCAA college basketball tournament.
Van Ness nevertheless pointed out that the jury rejected allegations that his client stole anything or even intended to steal anything.
“Apparently they rejected the story that he broke in with a screwdriver,” he said. “And they rejected the story that he attempted to steal those pills.”
At the trial last week, the 7-year-old daughter of Lori and Barry Lindahl testified that she saw Bruening pry open the sliding glass door, enter the trailer and pick up two bottles of antibiotics from the kitchen counter while she was watching from a couch in the living room. She was home from school with a fever that day.
Bruening, according to the girl’s testimony, scurried out of the trailer after she asked him what he was doing.
But the jury apparently believed something closer to Bruening’s version of events. He maintained that he had simply stopped by to pick up a tool that belonged to the trailer court. After knocking on the front door, he said, he went around the house to the sliding glass door and saw the young girl in the living room. He opened the door and began to enter, but instead told the girl to have her mother call him when she came home.
Criminal trespass is punishable by one to three years in prison and a fine of $1,000 to $100,000. Bruening was ordered to appear in court today to set a date for sentencing.
Assistant District Attorney Lawson Wills said he was satisfied with the verdict. “The important part is getting a felony conviction,” he said.
Wills said the judge will have plenty of discretion in sentencing Bruening, who has no prior felony convictions.
After the verdict was announced yesterday, District Court Judge J.E. DeVilbiss ruled Bruening could remain free on $10,250 bond. “I am adding the condition that you not go into the Aspen Village Trailer Court – stay out,” DeVilbiss said.
Wills said testimony that Bruening had been caught entering other trailers convinces him that Bruening remains a threat to the community.
“Bruening has entered a number of people’s homes without permission, people are missing a number of things out there, and it happened over the last year,” Wills said. “This case was important, because it put an end to that situation.”
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