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Rifle child sexual assault case continued for possible plea deal

Editor’s note: The defendant’s name is not being used in this case to protect the identities of the minor victims.

The case against a Rifle man accused of sexually assaulting five minors who were in his trust over multiple years was continued Thursday pending a possible plea deal.

If no deal is reached, the case will be set for trial.

Defense attorneys for the 55-year-old man said at a Thursday arraignment hearing before Garfield District Judge Denise Lynch that they need more time to talk to the 9th District Attorney’s Office.

The case was bound over for trial by Lynch following several hours of testimony from investigators at a preliminary hearing July 20.

Lynch agreed to continue the case until Oct. 6, but called that a “decision date” and expressed concerns about another lengthy delay.

“People need closure in this case, everybody,” Lynch said.   

The man faces 19 felony sexual-assault counts based on allegations dating back several years.

According to court documents, the man allegedly sexually abused one child in his care on numerous occasions from the time she was age 4 in 2009 until 2018, when she was 13.

Several other alleged victims, including friends of the primary victim, also eventually came forward with similar allegations against the man, according to court documents.

The defendant remains in the Garfield County Jail on $100,000 bond.

jstroud@postindependent.com

Former New Castle police chief arrested for menacing assigned to Garfield County District Court judge

New Castle police chief Tony Pagni has been formally dismissed, as his criminal case was set for an arraignment Wednesday.

Pagni, 58, is accused of walking around his residential neighborhood outside New Castle Friday night while carrying a loaded rifle and pointing it at a friend.

Pagni was arrested Friday evening for felony menacing involving a deadly weapon and misdemeanor counts of prohibited use of a weapon while intoxicated and harassment. Pagni was later released on a personal recognizance bond.

He had been on administrative leave from the town, but was formally dismissed Wednesday from his position, effective immediately, town of New Castle officials announced in a news release.

Town Administrator David Reynolds has named Sgt. Chuck Burrows as interim chief and said he “is confident that the department will continue to operate smoothly during the transition period.”

“The town would like to thank our residents for their continued support of the men and women of our Police Department during this transition period,” the release states.

Tony Pagni
Garfield County Detention Center photo

Pagni appeared from a remote location before 9th Judicial District Magistrate Judge John Shamis on Wednesday afternoon. Shamis allowed Pagni to remain free on his personal recognizance bond and also scheduled him to appear for an arraignment before 9th Judicial District Court Chief Judge James Boyd on Aug. 23.

According to a Garfield County Sheriff’s Office arrest affidavit, Pagni was arrested around 9 p.m. Friday after being accused of pressing the muzzle of a loaded AK-style semi-automatic rifle into a neighbor’s chest on his front porch. Pagni was appointed New Castle police chief in 2014.

New Castle chief released on bond following initial court appearance

New Castle Police Chief Tony Pagni is free on a personal recognizance bond pending a Wednesday court hearing following his Friday night arrest on suspicion of felony menacing involving an armed confrontation with a neighbor.

According to a Garfield County Sheriff’s Office arrest affidavit, Pagni, 58, was allegedly intoxicated when he approached a neighbor on his front porch on Navajo Street outside New Castle town limits about 8:30 p.m. Friday and threatened him by pressing the muzzle of an AK-style semi-automatic rifle into the man’s chest.

Pagni later allegedly barricaded himself in his house and was refusing to come out when police arrived but gave himself up a short time later.

During the exchange with the neighbor, Pagni allegedly accused the man of killing his wife and said he needed him to open the door to the house so he could confirm or disprove his suspicions, the affidavit states.

Pagni also allegedly threatened to “muzzle thump” the man if he didn’t open the door, the affidavit states, and at one point pressed the rifle into the man’s chest.

The neighbor told deputies he did not feel threatened by Pagni despite him brandishing a rifle and making baseless accusations and that he had known Pagni for 19 years and described him as a good neighbor and friend.

Pagni remains on administrative leave from the police chief’s position he has held since 2014. 

He faces a charge of menacing involving a deadly weapon, a class 5 felony, and two misdemeanors: prohibited use of a weapon while intoxicated and harassment.

Pagni appeared in Garfield District Court for an initial advisement hearing Saturday and was allowed to be released on a personal recognizance bond. He is due back in court at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday. 

According to the affidavit, the neighbor called his wife, who he said was out walking their dog at the time, and explained what was happening. Pagni then walked away and was allegedly observed walking down the street with the rifle pointed at the ground. The neighbor then called police and locked his doors for safety.

Officers arrived shortly after 9 p.m. to find Pagni in his nearby house on Navajo Street but refusing to come out. He surrendered after about 20 minutes and was placed under arrest, according to the affidavit.

A search of the house turned up the rifle in question, which had a round in the chamber and a fully loaded magazine, the affidavit states.

Pagni was appointed New Castle police chief in 2014 after serving as interim chief for six months, and had been an officer with the police department for several years prior to that.

jstroud@postindependent.com

New Castle police chief charged with felony menacing, placed on administrative leave

New Castle Police Chief Tony Pagni was placed on administrative leave following his Saturday arrest on one felony and two misdemeanors.

Pagni was booked Saturday into the Garfield County Jail on a charge of menacing (aggravated-weapon), a felony. He is also charged with two misdemeanors: prohibited use of weapons and harassment (strikes, shoves, kicks), according to the Garfield County Sheriff’s inmate roster Saturday.

Pagni was later released on a personal recognizance bond, and is due in District Court on Wednesday afternoon.

In a statement released Saturday, New Castle Town Administrator Dave Reynolds said Pagni was placed on administrative leave “following an incident that occurred Friday evening.”

Reynolds said in an email that Pagni was arrested outside of New Castle town limits in a “collaborative effort between the Garfield County Sheriff’s Department with aid from the New Castle police,” but that no further information would be released at this time.

Pagni was appointed chief in 2014 after serving in the role on an interim basis for six months.

Man convicted of murder in Glenwood Springs gets new trial

A Denver man convicted of murdering his wife in 2016 won himself a new trial, the Colorado Court of Appeals ruled Thursday.

Gustavo Olivo-Tellez, 37, was convicted in 2019 in the shooting death of Blanca Salas at her home near Glenwood Springs while the couple was separated.

He allegedly shot her twice in the face and twice in the abdomen, and then fled the scene with his then 3-year-old son.

Olivo-Tellez then confessed to his girlfriend that he had killed Salas, and disposed of the gun he used in the Roaring Fork River. After a six-hour interview, he also confessed to police, but the judge in the case, District Judge John Neiley, denied his attorney’s motion to have that confession suppressed on grounds that it was not voluntary.

A three-judge panel of the appeals court agreed with the attorney and remanded the case for a new trial.

In it, Judge Terry Fox wrote that Homeland Security Agent Renzo Scavazzon, who isn’t an official court interpreter but who acted as a translator during police questioning, told Olivo-Tellez that the girlfriend could also be convicted in the crime, knowing that she was not a suspect.

“The video reveals that Scavazzon made an implied threat and promise that, considering the totality of the circumstance, overbore Olivo-Tellez’s will, rendering his subsequent statements inadmissible,” Fox wrote in the ruling, which was joined by Judges Rebecca Freyre and Christina Gomez.

“And because the state has not met its burden to show that the admission of those statements was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt, particularly in the context of Olivo-Tellez’s heat of passion defense, we reverse his conviction and remand for a new trial,” Fox added.

According to the ruling, Olivo-Tellez believed that his wife was seeing someone else. He and the girlfriend, Michelle Castillo, were to go target shooting, but because of his immigration status, he could not purchase bullets for his gun, something he had Castillo do for him.

After the shooting, and abandoning his car in Rifle, he, Salas and the son all drove to Olivo-Tellez’s home in Grand Junction. He later was arrested in a nearby motel by the Grand Junction Police Department’s SWAT team.

Olivo-Tellez was charged with first-degree murder.

“At trial, he conceded that he had shot Salas, but he raised a voluntary intoxication defense based on alleged chronic methamphetamine and alcohol use,” Fox wrote in the ruling.

“He also tendered instructions on the lesser included offenses of second-degree murder, manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide,” he added. “As to second-degree murder, he raised that additional defense of heat of passion, which he supported, in part, by testimony that just before he shot Salas, Salas called him a bad father and a drug addict, and questioned his manhood.”

The jury acquitted him on first-degree murder charges, but convicted him of second-degree murder, saying that they were rejecting his heat-of-passion defense.

He was sentenced to 48 years in prison, and currently is being held in the Crowley County Correctional Facility.

Defense for Glenwood Springs shooting suspect asks all reports, documents be shared

The defense for a suspect accused of shooting his landlord and at law enforcement amid a July 14 standoff in Glenwood Springs has requested all documents and reports associated with the case be shared.

Craig Allen Robbins, 44, is accused of shooting his landlord, Tom Parks, with a shotgun following an altercation over an eviction. Robbins was also accused of barricading himself inside the residence in the 1000 block of Riverview Drive and shooting at responding law enforcement officers.

Parks suffered a shotgun blast to the abdomen, while all other roommates within the house were unharmed.

According to an arrest affidavit, Robbins was charged with five counts of felony attempted murder as well as additional charges. He went before 9th Judicial Court Judge James Boyd to return a filing of charges Tuesday morning.

Robbins’ attorney, Public Defender Alex Haynes, requested that a discovery — an exchange of information between all parties — be disclosed to the defense as soon as possible.

“It’s my understanding and my assumption that the (Glenwood Springs Police Department) has generated reports and documents, and I would assume has turned them over to the district attorney’s office,” Haynes said. “As far as I’m concerned, my position is that they’re legally obliged to then turn them over to us.”

Craig Allen Robbins

Haynes said if discovery is granted later than sooner — or, no later than 21 days after the criminal charges have been formally filed in court — could put the defense in “a very awful position.”

“The thrust of that motion that I filed was to ensure that law enforcement not contact (Robbins) about this case without us knowing about it, not to collect evidence from him about this case without us knowing about it,” Haynes said.

In addition to Haynes’ request for discovery, Haynes told Boyd a formal document describing the criminal charges against Robbins has yet to be filed.

Prosecuting attorney Heidi Bauer said the charges against Robbins have not been officially filed because the DA’s office has struggled to obtain information and reports due to the complicated matter of the incident.

“We have just recently started getting a more substantial amount of discovery,” she said. “And we have no objection to turn that over.”

Haynes also said the defense would not yet be addressing Robbins’ bond, which was initially set at $2 million by magistrate Jonathan Shamis. Shamis appointed a court liaison to help address any mental health conditions for Robbins, but because Robbins’ bond wasn’t being addressed yet, Haynes requested Boyd withdraw the liaison.

“Based on what I’ve just heard, I will vacate the order, appointing the bridges liaison in this case without prejudice to a renewed request in the future,” Boyd said.

Boyd granted Haynes’ request for discovery to be turned over as soon as reasonably practicable, he said. 

Robbins is scheduled to appear again before Boyd at 9:30 a.m. Aug. 23.

Rifle child sexual assault case bound over for trial

Editor’s note: The defendant’s name is not being used in this case to protect the identities of the minor victims.

The case against a Rifle man accused of sexually assaulting five minors who were in his trust over multiple years has been bound over for trial, unless a plea deal is reached in the meantime.

A preliminary hearing was held July 20 for prosecutors to present evidence involving 19 felony sexual assault counts against the 55-year-old defendant. 

Garfield District Judge Denise Lynch found probable cause to take the case to trial, following several hours of testimony from the lead investigators for the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office and the 9th District Attorney’s Office.

None of the alleged victims in the case took the stand during the hearing. The case is set for an Aug. 4 arraignment hearing, at which time a jury trial may be scheduled, unless a plea is entered in the meantime.  

The defendant remains in the Garfield County Jail on $100,000 bond. In December 2021, Lynch denied a request to reduce the bond to $50,000. The man has been in jail since his March 2021 arrest after the allegations, which span several years, came to light.

According to court documents, the man allegedly sexually abused one child in his care on numerous occasions from the time she was age 4 until 2018, when she was 13.

Several other alleged victims, including friends of the primary victim, also eventually came forward with similar allegations against the man, according to court documents.

Several other Garfield County cases involving sexual abuse of children by persons in positions of trust are currently being prosecuted by the 9th District Attorney.

According to Garfield County Jail inmate records, one involves a 42-year-old man who was booked on June 21 of this year. He is also is being held on $100,000 bond, and is due in court on Tuesday.

Another involves a 46-year-old male who was arrested Jan. 14 of this year, and is being held on $50,000 bond. His case is currently set for arraignment on Sept. 15.

In another case, a 29-year-old male has been in custody for sex assault on a child (not in a position of trust) since May 8, 2021. He’s still being held on $87,000 bond. A plea hearing in that case is set for Aug. 11.

Detalles del tiroteo la semana pasada en Glenwood Springs revelan que el inquilino disparó al propietario en el abdomen

Una declaración jurada sobre el tiroteo del jueves en un vecindario residencial de Glenwood Springs indica que el sospechoso le disparó al propietario en el abdomen durante un intento de desalojo.

Craig Allen Robbins, de 44 años, está acusado de dispararle a Tom Parks, quien actualmente se encuentra en estado crítico en el Hospital Valley View, en una residencia en la cuadra 1000 de Riverview Drive. Parks, Robbins y otras dos personas vivían juntas en la residencia.

Según la declaración jurada, el altercado originalmente comenzó cuando Parks intentó desalojar a Robbins.

Tras dispararle a Parks, Robbins se atrincheró dentro de la residencia y disparó contra los oficiales que respondieron, según una declaración jurada de arresto.

Robbins, quien finalmente se rindió, fue acusado de cinco cargos de intento de asesinato en primer grado. También fue acusado de delito grave de encarcelamiento ilegal, descarga ilegal de un arma de fuego y negativa a abandonar las instalaciones, así como de delito menor por uso prohibido de un arma y peligro imprudente.

El Departamento de Policía de Glenwood Springs respondió originalmente a los disparos en la residencia poco antes de las 11 a.m. del jueves.

“El despacho informó a los oficiales que la parte informante estaba en su habitación y escuchó disparos,” dice la declaración jurada. “La (parte informante) informó que el propietario y el inquilino masculino estaban involucrados.”

Otra compañera de cuarto, que estaba dentro de la casa cuando comenzó el tiroteo, le dijo a un oficial investigador que ella se despertó con Robbins peleando con sus compañeros de cuarto, dice la declaración jurada. Durante este tiempo, corrió a la habitación de Parks y se escondió debajo de una cama para mantenerse a salvo, dice la declaración jurada.

El testigo dijo que Robbins comenzó a disparar a través de las paredes de la casa. Parks, de pie y sosteniendo una escopeta para defenderse, fue alcanzado por una bala en el abdomen.

Cuando Parks sufrió la herida de bala, el testigo se unió a la novia de Parks, que también estaba en la residencia y tenía una pistola, para sacar a Parks de la casa con éxito. Luego subieron a la camioneta de Parks y se dirigieron a una calle cercana.

Cuando el primer oficial de policía de Glenwood Springs respondió a los disparos, Robbins había movido artículos en la casa para bloquear puertas y ventanas, dice la declaración jurada.

“El oficial (Terran) Farnham salió de su vehículo y se acercó a la residencia. Según la cámara corporal del oficial Farnham, los disparos parecen provenir de la residencia,” afirma la declaración jurada.

Más oficiales, incluidos los de los vehículos de defensa de las oficinas del alguacil de los condados de Garfield y Eagle, llegaron al lugar para ayudar a Farnham poco tiempo después.

“En un momento, el oficial Farnham ve por la ventana a un hombre sospechoso armado dentro de la residencia,” dice la declaración jurada. “El oficial Farnham le ordena al hombre que suelte su arma.”

Robbins no hizo caso a Farnham. Farnham luego se retiró hacia otra residencia mientras se escuchaban más disparos en la cámara corporal provenientes de la residencia.

Durante este tiempo, el despacho permaneció en el teléfono con la informante original, que todavía estaba escondida detrás de su tocador.

Dispatch informó a los oficiales que Robbins había llamado al 911 y pidió que lo transfirieran a los oficiales en la escena.

El oficial de policía de Glenwood Springs A.J. Hand dijo en la declaración jurada que cuando llegó a la escena, finalmente escuchó a Robbins decir a los negociadores: “No quiero lastimar a nadie, solo a Tom.” Un negociador habló con Robbins durante más de una hora y le pidió que se rindiera varias veces.

“Robbins declaró varias veces que estaba guardando sus armas de fuego y que había bloqueado la casa con muebles,” afirmó Hand en la declaración jurada. “Mencionó en un momento que las estaba dejando en la mesa de la cocina.”

Robbins finalmente obedeció a los negociadores y se rindió de manera segura sin más incidentes. Los oficiales que respondieron también escoltaron de manera segura a la compañera de cuarto que se escondía detrás de su tocador fuera de la casa.

Los oficiales investigadores descubrieron impactos de bala en vehículos de patrulla, residencias cercanas, vehículos civiles y en Veltus Park. También descubrieron varias pistolas, rifles y más de 1.000 rondas de municiones.

Se observaron múltiples impactos de bala en toda la casa después de que arrestaron a Robbins.

“Se localizaron múltiples defectos en la escalera y el dormitorio,” dice la declaración jurada. “También se encontró sangre en la puerta del dormitorio y en el piso del dormitorio.”

Está previsto que Robbins comparezca ante el Tribunal de Distrito del Condado de Garfield a las 8:15 a.m. del 26 de julio.

Traducción de Edgar Barrantes. 

Mesa County Clerk and Recorder Tina Peters turns herself in to Aspen authorities

Embattled Mesa County Clerk and Recorder Tina Peters turned herself into Pitkin County law enforcement authorities on Thursday after an arrest warrant was issued for her last week.

She went to the Pitkin County administration building, where the sheriff’s office is located, around 9 p.m., according to Undersheriff Alex Burchetta.

Because it was after hours, Peters used the phone in the vestibule of the building that connects to the sheriff’s office and identified herself and said she was there to turn herself in on a warrant.

A sheriff’s deputy walked her to the jail and booked her at 9:22 p.m. for the outstanding warrant, which carries the charges of contempt of court and a civil protection order violation.

Peters posted a $1,000 cash-only bond and was released at 10:24 p.m., according to the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office.

It is unclear why Peters was in Aspen and why she chose to turn herself into the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office.

Burchetta said he didn’t know if she was alone when she showed up at the county administration building.

The Republican clerk, who is an election denier, is accused of election equipment tampering, violating the conditions of her bail bond, as well as a protection order.

She allegedly contacted the director of the Mesa County Clerk and Recorder’s Office. She is barred from communicating with any employee in that office.

An arrest warrant was issued last week when she left the state and traveled to Las Vegas for a sheriff’s convention without the permission of the court, which is a condition of her bond.

Peters was out on a $25,000 surety bond after she was indicted by a grand jury related to election equipment tampering.

She’s facing 10 felony counts stemming from a security breach of her county’s election system.

The allegations include attempting to influence a public servant and criminal impersonation.

Peters is under indictment for an alleged break-in of Mesa County’s election system in an attempt to find evidence to support President Donald Trump’s claim that he didn’t lose the 2020 presidential race but rather that the election was rigged.

Peters was barred by a judge from overseeing local elections this year and last.

Last month she lost her bid as the Republican candidate for Secretary of State in the primary race.

Peters unsuccessfully sought a recount through a notarized letter to Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold.

When she was denied a hand recount, Peters asked multiple county clerks to do their own counting, which included those in Mesa County, and that led to the violation of the conditions of her release from jail.

Her Denver-based attorney Harvey Steinberg didn’t return a message on Friday seeking comment.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Glenwood Springs attempted murder trial postponed again; defense sought dismissal over evidence nondisclosure by DA

An attempted murder trial stemming from an April 2021 shooting incident outside a downtown Glenwood Springs home has been postponed a second time, with fingers pointed at the 9th District Attorney’s Office for failure to disclose key evidence in the case.

In the meantime, the defendant, Padrikea Nichols, 36, of Silt, is now free on a personal recognizance bond after having been in the Garfield County Jail since his April 26, 2021, arrest on a $250,000 bond.

Padrikea Nichols

A two-week trial in the case was to begin this week until the local State Public Defender’s Office filed a July 13 motion to have the case dismissed.

The request was based on prior communication between Adele Campbell, mother of alleged victim Thomas “TJ” Powell, and the District Attorney’s Office that took place in late February. 

That communication came to the attention of the defense team only in the weeks leading up to the scheduled July 18 trial start, according to the motion filed by local public defenders Elise Myer and Alex Haynes.

It’s the second trial postponement in the case, which was originally slated to go before a jury in late March. It was continued then at the request of the defense, also related to evidentiary questions and testimony from investigating police officers at a February hearing.

According to the latest motion, in her conversations with the DA’s Office, Campbell is said to have recalled telling her son to back away from the situation and to stay away from the home of Jenna Powell — his wife at the time and Nichols’ ex-wife — the night of the confrontation that resulted in Powell being severely wounded when he was allegedly shot by Nichols with a handgun.

Powell, 26, died Nov. 12, 2021, while with his mother in New York City. However, it was never disclosed in the Glenwood Springs case whether his death was a direct result of his injuries from the gunshot wound, which left Powell paralyzed from the neck down and on a ventilator.

District Attorney Jeff Cheney never sought murder charges, sticking with the initial attempted murder charge.

Also in Campbell’s communication with the DA’s Office, according to the defense motion, she allegedly suggested it was Jenna Powell who incited the confrontation between the two men.

“(Campbell) firmly believes, and the evidence supports, that Jenna Powell did what she could to make TJ Powell jealous … (and) to incite a volatile situation involving Mr. Nichols,” the defense claims in its motion.

That evidence was subject to mandatory disclosure rules by the DA’s Office, the defense maintains.

Garfield County District Judge John Neiley did not immediately dismiss the case but did reschedule the trial for Sept. 16-29. The judge also left the door open for the defense to file additional motions in the meantime based on the new evidence.

Cheney, in an email to the Post Independent on Thursday, said he ordered a transcript of the court hearing and judge’s ruling the day of the hearing, and could not comment until reviewing that transcript, “which is the most accurate representation of what occurred during that hearing,” he said.

Defense attorneys maintain the new evidence supports Nichols’ self-defense claim.

“It is possible evidence of Jenna Powell inciting a situation would support a Heat of Passion crime,” the defense wrote in the July 13 motion. “This is a lesser offense of what Mr. Nichols is charged with.

“Mr. Powell’s mother, who spent the last 6 months of his life with him in New York, provided the district attorney with factual information that not just negates the culpable mental state of Mr. Nichols, but also supports the affirmative self-defense claim that (he) has asserted all along.”

Nichols’ attorneys argued the self-defense claim at an Oct. 21 preliminary hearing when the case was bound over for trial. Nichols allegedly fired at Powell multiple times with a handgun during the confrontation outside Jenna Powell’s home in the 800 block of Pitkin Avenue around 8 p.m. April 26, 2021, hitting him twice.

Prosecutors argued at the October preliminary hearing that a fifth shot fired by Nichols when Powell was already incapacitated, which missed, proves he intended to kill Powell.

According to court documents, the dispute began the night before with a heated phone conversation between Powell and Nichols, who was with his ex-wife at a downtown Glenwood Springs bar. Glenwood Springs police were called to intervene, and said in the initial arrest affidavit that Nichols suggested he had a gun and was prepared to defend himself against Powell.

After Powell was shot, he was air-lifted to a Denver hospital, where he underwent several surgeries before relocating to New York.

Nichols has claimed it was Powell who was the aggressor when the two confronted each other the night of the shooting. Nichols fled the scene, but was arrested at his home in Silt later that night.

Noting that the case was to have gone to trial in March, the defense team also said Nichols could have been convicted without them ever knowing about the communications between Campbell and the DA’s Office.

Senior Reporter/Managing Editor John Stroud can be reached at 970-384-9160 or jstroud@postindependent.com.