Woman found guilty in downtown Aspen donnybrook
ASPEN – A judge found an Aspen woman guilty of disorderly conduct after a 20-minute trial Wednesday in Aspen Municipal Court, where the defendant claimed she was acting in self-defense when she got in a downtown brawl with a former Playboy model.
Veronica Lorelle Wimm, 21, testified that she simply was speaking up for her friend who had been called derogatory names by a man leaving the Escobar nightclub early Dec. 10.
When Wimm confronted the man, Aaron Christopher Preston, 25, and told him to apologize, he pushed her to the ground, Wimm said. Next thing she knew, Wimm and the man’s girlfriend, Brittany Zollen Rathel, were battling it out on the ground of the Hyman Avenue pedestrian mall.
“She had blond hair, she was orange, and she was crazy,” Wimm told the judge. Wimm added that she clung to the hair of Rathel, 21, who once posed for Playboy and does modeling work, because she was trying to protect herself.
Meanwhile, Preston allegedly hit Wimm’s friend, 24-year-old Aspen resident Kate Roberts, who also testified in court. Roberts, part Puerto Rican, said the man made disparaging remarks about her ethnicity and her weight.
Even so, Judge Brooke Peterson said he had no choice but to find Wimm guilty because she admitted to the allegations.
“You re-escalated a situation,” Peterson said. “You could have waited to call the police.”
Police arrived minutes after the scuffle began and had to pull Wimm off of Rathel, Officer Adam Loudon testified.
Peterson gave Wimm a six-month deferred sentence, meaning the conviction will be expunged from her record if she stays out of trouble for the next 180 days. Peterson also ordered her to pay a $100 probation fee.
Preston, meanwhile, faces misdemeanor charges in Pitkin County Court of third-degree assault and fraud. The fraud charge comes from him allegedly saying that police knocked out one of his teeth. But the tooth in question is removable, and he put it back in his mouth for his mug shot, police said.
Peterson also issued a bench warrant for Rathel’s arrest when she didn’t appear in city court last month to face a disorderly-conduct charge from the incident. The judge quashed the warrant after prosecutor James True said Rathel later contacted him about the matter. She’s due back in city court Jan. 25.
In other police news:
• Peterson voiced his displeasure with Aspen transient James R. Griebling, 51, after police cited him for violating the city’s open-container law on Monday. But it wasn’t the fact that police found Griebling in possession of a water bottle holding traces of vodka that irked the judge. It was where they found him: passed out on the floor of the Aspen post office.
“That conduct is unacceptable,” Peterson said.
With that, the judge ordered Griebling to attend 20 12-step meetings within the next 30 days. If Griebling doesn’t abide, he’ll likely spend a stint in jail, Peterson said.
The judge said he’s growing tired of Griebling making repeated appearances in municipal court; his showing Wednesday marked his third or fourth transgression since September.
While Griebling has adhered to previous court orders by completing public service sentences, he continues to run afoul of the law, Peterson said.
“I’m trying to be sympathetic but you’re not helping me when you’re passed out on the floors of the post office,” the judge said.
Police officers said they find Griebling to be a nice fellow, but he just can’t seem to get on the right track.
Griebling didn’t have much to say, other than his not-guilty plea to the open container violation. He told Peterson that the bottle was empty when police inspected it. But officer Jeff Fain said there was definitely some vodka in the bottle. The judge bought officer Fain’s version of the story over Griebling’s.
• An employee at Aspen Sports in Snowmass Village was arrested at work Monday after his superiors found cocaine in his backpack, police said.
Joseph Jacob Carroll, 20, faces one felony charge of unlawful possession of a controlled substance. He was arrested by Snowmass Village police, who reported to the retailer after getting a call from his manager.
The manager notified police after the Aspen Sports regional manager, while changing in the store’s locker room, smelled marijuana coming from one of the lockers, an affidavit from Snowmass police officer Brian Vanderpool says. When the manager and regional manager detected the scent coming from Carroll’s locker, they asked him if they could search his belongings in his locker, the affidavit says. He gave them consent.
There, they found a plastic bag with a white, powdery substance. The affidavit, however, makes no mention of any marijuana discovered by the bosses. Their finding of the cocaine, however, prompted them to call Snowmass police.
When police arrived, they collected the baggy, read Carroll his Miranda rights, and took him to the Snowmass Village Police station.
“I’m just gonna go ahead and tell you that’s cocaine,” Carroll told officers while they were en route. Carroll’s comment was unsolicited, and he added that he bought the cocaine at a bar on New Year’s Eve, the affidavit says, which notes that the combined weight of the bag and the cocaine totaled 0.6 grams.
• Aspen police arrested a 27-year-old man after they found him allegedly staggering through downtown Aspen, then took him to jail and found bag of cocaine in his possession.
The arrest of Milkias Yoseph Hailu came after 2 a.m. Monday, when officers Fain and Forrest Barnett were on motor patrol and spotted the man “staggering in small circles on the corner of Cooper and Galena,” an affidavit says. Hailu appeared “extremely intoxicated as he almost fell over on two occasions,” says the Fain-written affidavit. “I watched as the male fell backward while looking at his cell phone and hit his head on a store window that was near to where he was standing.”
The officers then contacted the man, whom they had a hard time understanding. After 40 minutes of unsuccessfully finding a sober party to take care of Hailu, police took him to protective custody. While Hailu was at Pitkin County Jail, a deputy did a routine search on his person and found a Ziploc-style bag with white powdery substance, which later tested positive for cocaine. The bag and its contents weights 0.4 grams, the affidavit says.
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