‘Wildest police videos’ driver sentenced | AspenTimes.com

‘Wildest police videos’ driver sentenced

Charles Agar
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN ” Almost a year to the day after his arrest for leading police on a five-hour, multiple-car chase in Aspen and Snowmass, Phillip Jordon Vigil, 28, was sentenced in district court on Monday to six years in community corrections.

“I was lost,” Vigil told District Court Judge James Boyd prior to sentencing in an Aspen courtroom. “For about 14 years I was messed up.”

And after 29 days without sleep on a methamphetamine binge on the day he was arrested in July 2007, Vigil was “barely even describable as a human being,” according to his attorney, Garth McCarty.

But it didn’t help that sheriff’s deputies shot at him with an M-16, Vigil said.

Fearing for his life, he “went blank” and fled in terror, stealing a succession of four vehicles in Aspen and Snowmass and picking up a gun off the seat of one vehicle.

“I wasn’t thinking,” said Vigil, who has been in jail on a $45,000 bond since his arrest. “I’ve lost everything; I’m at the bottom.”

“He put a lot of people at risk,” said Deputy District Attorney Tony Hershey.

Vigil drove down Aspen’s Main Street at 75 mph, Hershey said, joking that the incident was a good candidate for “wildest police videos” but that there wasn’t anything funny about it.

Vigil faced as many 12 years in prison on some 17 counts against him, but earlier he pleaded guilty to felony vehicle theft, eluding, driving on a revoked license and carrying a weapon prohibited to a convicted felon, as well as misdemeanor reckless endangerment.

And after his time in the Pitkin County jail, Vigil told the judge he’s a changed man.

“I’m done with meth. I’m done with drugs,” he said. “This jail here has showed me so much love. It changed me.”

“There is a guy sitting in this chair that is not the same person arrested that day,” McCarty said of his client, adding that he knows Vigil to be a man of integrity who is “honest, upfront and straightforward.”

Vigil’s arrest resulted from heavy drug use and a handful of tragic circumstances, starting when Vigil was robbed and abandoned by a woman Vigil had been doing drugs with in Aspen.

Vigil, who had never set foot out of the tough inner-city Denver neighborhood where he was raised, has seen people killed by police in Denver, McCarty said.

And when Pitkin County Deputy Brad Gibson fired at the tires of one of the stolen cars Vigil was driving, Vigil lost it.

“This was a run for his life and he didn’t know where to go,” McCarty said.

In his addled state, Vigil picked up a gun from one of three stolen vehicles in order to protect himself, McCarty said. And when finally stopped by police on the bike trail near the roundabout, Vigil was compliant and told them he was armed.

Vigil made no threats, McCarty said.

Despite two prior felonies and the seriousness of his crime, McCarty asked that Vigil be given a sentence that helps him treat his addiction problem.

McCarty pointed out that Vigil is an expert auto mechanic ” evidenced by the fact that he stole three cars with ease ” and the attorney said that if given a chance Vigil would be an asset to the community.

Judge Boyd reminded Vigil of the serious nature of the charges.

But, taking into account Vigil’s apparently sincere “change of heart” in jail, Boyd sentenced Vigil to six years in community corrections, an alternative to prison, at Peer One, a vigorous recovery program on the Front Range.

Boyd credited Vigil with his one year served in the local jail, where Vigil will stay until he begins his sentence.

– The 15-year-old boy who pleaded guilty to charges of car theft and reckless driving following an incident on Red Mountain in mid-May was sentenced to one year in the Department of Youth Corrections.

The boy’s mother choked back sobs on Monday as she asked the judge for a fair sentence and a chance for the child to live with his family.

Hershey asked that the boy be committed to custody, saying he was a threat to himself and the community, and that it would be a chance for him get the mental health and substance abuse help he needs.

“I realize what I’ve done and there’s no taking it back,” the boy said. “I don’t want to spend the rest of my life in the court system.”

Considering the boy’s prior charges, Boyd sentenced the child to one year in custody.

– Tomas Machado, a former Aspen High School class president and Salvadoran native who has been in Aspen since age 16, was sentenced to time served on a probation violation on Monday.

Machado will stay in jail, however, on an immigration hold and could be deported. He was picked up while intoxicated in El Jebel when police found a warrant for failing to pay restitution or comply with probation on theft charges.

– In a recent similar case, another Salvadoran man asked to withdraw his guilty plea on a deferred judgment for cocaine possession charges.

Isabel Orellana-Santos said that his attorney didn’t inform him that any guilty plea could damage his immigration status.

In a recently-issued court order, however, Judge Boyd denied the motion and the Orellana-Santos’ sentence will stand.

There were also a handful of plea deals in court on Monday.

– Devin Schutter, who faces a laundry list of allegations, will have until Aug. 4 to consider a plea offer from the district attorney. Schutter is looking at possibly years in prison on felony cocaine possession.

– Dylan Davis, a woman charged with using a client’s account to steal from Clark’s Market, pleaded guilty to unauthorized use of a financial device and will receive a three-year deferred sentence. She will be formally sentenced in September.

– Victor Murillo, who faced probation violations on an earlier drug case, pleaded guilty to the violations and was sentenced to three years in community corrections in Garfield County.

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