Pitkin County judge releases Crown ‘protester’ after incident near Hotel Jerome
A judge ordered a man to be released from jail Monday despite his plea to remain incarcerated on pending charges related to allegations that he told police Saturday there was a bomb in his backpack close to the Hotel Jerome, the venue for that evening’s Aspen Hall of Fame induction ceremonies.
“I have no resources to do it,” said defendant Troy Stiles, 48, in reference to paying a bond to be released from the Pitkin County Jail. “I’ll sit in the country club down there — as long as it’s not, like, five years of waiting. Obviously there’s something called due process. As long as y’all take care of your end, I’m cool.”
Aspen police arrested Stiles, a former Aspen Skiing Co. employee, after 3 p.m. Saturday, following reports from employees at Hotel Jerome of suspicious behavior that included his asking them where he could stand “to protest the murder of Lester Crown,” according to an arrest affidavit.
Crown, 92, is the Chicago businessman whose family has owned Skico since July 1985. He was inducted into the Aspen Hall of Fame at its annual banquet Saturday night. The Crown family also owns 10 percent of stock in aerospace and defense contractor General Dynamics, according to Forbes.
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Police, in the meantime, tracked down Stiles at the Pitkin County Library. There, Stiles told authorities he planned to protest the people attending the event, the affidavit said. Police told Stiles he would be allowed to peacefully demonstrate, which Stiles agreed to, noting that he would read from the Bible.
Stiles subsequently told police a bomb was inside his backpack, which he threw at the ground at the officers’ feet. Stiles then picked up the backpack, allegedly telling officers, “I wouldn’t do that at the Jerome.”
While Stiles had cooked up the bomb story, after talking to their supervisors, officers John Woltjer and Mark Anderson arrested Stiles on a felony charge of menacing and separate misdemeanor counts of obstructing a peace officer and disorderly conduct. Those charges are pending; it will be up to the District Attorney’s Office whether to formally file them.
During his advisement hearing in front of Pitkin County District Court Judge Chris Seldin, Stiles argued, “I am a target for the Crowns, and that’s why I’m here, because I speak out against them.”
He also told Seldin he’d prefer to stay in jail.
“I have nothing,” Stiles said. “I’ve got this yarmulke on my head, my glasses on my face … and my car.”
The judge, however, said he did not consider Stiles a threat and ordered him released on a $1,000 personal-recognizance bond. That means that so long as Stiles makes his court appearances, he won’t be required to pay the bond.
“It’s unusual for me to have a defendant express a willingness to remain incarcerated while charges against him are pending,” Seldin said. “It can be, in fact, a significant amount of time that can pass before a case is brought to trial.”
Stiles’ statements to the police, Seldin said, were “perhaps” intended “in jest and were construed strictly by law enforcement. It was notable that law enforcement did not initially arrest Mr. Stiles. It was only after that officer consulted with his supervisors that a determination to place him under arrest was made.”
Stiles said he will fight the charges.
“I’m going to completely plead not guilty to (all) of this, so this is just all manufactured lies,” he said.
Stiles had no legal counsel, and the judge urged him to sign up for a public defender. Prosecutor Sarah Nordgaard attended the hearing by telephone and sought a $1,000 cash-surety bond.
She said Stiles’ past transgressions do not signal “a very significant criminal history.” She noted a burglary conviction from 1988 in California that was dismissed in 2009, as well as a DUI conviction in 2000 and a DUI arrest in 2001.
“I’ve got more than two-and-a-half years sober now,” Stiles said.
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The coronavirus threat delayed the opening of developed campgrounds in the Roaring Fork, Fryingpan and Crystal valleys. The Forest Service will phase them back in by June 12.