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GarCo sheriff still on patrol while facilities are closed to public; VIN inspection suspensions extended

The Coronavirus pandemic is no excuse to break the law.

In a news release Thursday, the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office stressed that deputies are still on patrol “enforcing normal traffic laws in accordance with Colorado laws for motor vehicles.”

“Violators may expect Deputies to take appropriate action, issuing a summons/ticket or when necessary making an arrest,” the release states. “Deputies will take action based on the seriousness of the violation and in alignment with the health, safety and welfare of the other residents of Garfield County.”

The temporary closure of administrative offices at the county annex in Rifle has not affected the “day-to-day operations” of deputies on patrol, the release adds.

VIN inspections will also remain suspended until at least April 17. Garfield County Public Health will reassess at that time whether it’s safe for VIN inspections to begin again.

Kerri Johnson, who is serving time for role in Aspen embezzlement case, released from jail over COVID-19 concerns

For those who don’t think the tentacles of the unfolding coronavirus pandemic touch every aspect of life, consider that Thursday they reached the Derek Johnson theft case.

The former Aspen Skiing Co. executive was sentenced in January to six years in prison for pleading guilty to stealing more than 13,000 pairs of skis from his employer and selling them for about $3 million over a 15-year period. His wife, Kerri Johnson, also pleaded guilty to felony theft and was sentenced in February to 90 days in the Pitkin County Jail and five years of probation.

But on Thursday, District Judge Chris Seldin released Kerri Johnson from jail more than two months early because of virus-related concerns, according to court documents.

And while she asked the judge to reduce her 90-day sentence to the 28 days she’s served so far, and release her permanently from jail to begin her probation sentence, Seldin said no.

“The Court declines to modify the length of the jail sentence,” the judge’s order Thursday states. “However, the Court will permit Ms. Johnson to serve the jail sentence non-consecutively.

“This course of action is consistent with requests from the jail to manage its population in light of the current public health crisis.”

That means Kerri Johnson must report back to the jail to serve the remaining 62 days of her sentence in “49 days, or such other time that may be authorized by the Court,” Seldin wrote.

In a motion filed March 14 by her lawyer, Johnson cited the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the area school cancellation affecting her two school-aged children now being cared for by her 76-year-old mother as reasons for the jail sentence reconsideration request, according to the motion.

“With both Mr. and Mrs. Johnson in custody and the national emergency related to spreading coronavirus, the Johnson family is experiencing significant stress and worry,” the motion states. “At this point, the harm and risk posed by Ms. Johnson remaining in jail for one more month during this pandemic seem to outweigh the Court’s original reasons for imposing a 90-day jail sentence.”

The motion states that Johnson has had no disciplinary issues in jail and expects to receive the maximum amount of so-called “good time,” which allows an inmate to subtract time behind bars in exchange for good behavior.

“This means that Ms. Johnson will likely serve 54 days of jail,” according to the motion. “As such, to date, she has likely served approximately half of her jail sentence.”

Pitkin County Sheriff Joe DiSalvo said one other jail inmate has been allowed out on furlough in recent days because of the encroaching virus. That inmate was in the work release program, meaning he left jail during the day to work and returned at night to sleep, and officials didn’t want him continually re-entering the jail and possibly infecting other inmates, DiSalvo said.

The inmate also will have to serve the rest of his sentence at a later date.

Kerri Johnson is the only full-time inmate released because of the coronavirus, he said.

jauslander@aspentimes.com

New Castle school robbed, and two unrelated thefts: Garfield County crime briefs

Man arrested for stealing truck parts

Rifle Police arrested a man who allegedly made off with nearly $2,000 worth of parts stripped from a parked truck.

A woman called police around 7:30 a.m. Feb. 28 when she witnessed a man crawl out from under her coworker’s Chevy Tahoe with an engine differential in his hands.

The woman yelled at the man, 35, and he dropped the car part and left in his own car.

The truck’s owner later confirmed that her truck was missing its radio, starter, alternator, a wire harness and several other car parts, a total value of $1,934.

The car owner believed she knew who the suspect was, and found his profile on social media. The woman who called police identified the suspect out of a photo array.

The man was arrested on a warrant and booked in the Garfield County Jail March 14. He faces felony charges of theft of motor vehicle parts and criminal trespass.

Suspect in string of storage unit thefts arrested

Garfield County Sheriff’s Office investigators arrested a 25-year-old man for allegedly breaking into and robbing multiple storage units near Glenwood Springs.

Sheriff’s deputies began investigating the thefts Feb. 26, after the storage facility manager reported multiple units had been broken into over the course of a week.

In one unit, the renters reported a trombone valued at $300 had been damaged, and two jackets, totaling $1,100 in value, had been taken.

Another unit that was empty contained “transient possessions” like a tent, cooking grill and other personal effects.

Another unlocked unit had a hole cut in the drywall, large enough for a man to crawl through, that led to a locked unit, which also had items that indicated someone had been sleeping there. The storage unit manager had found a man in his 60s sleeping there in the past.

One of the units contained a receipt from Habitat for Humanity under a named account, but it wasn’t the name of the older transient man.

While the investigator was speaking with storage unit renters, a man who lived nearby ran through the storage facility to the road. The officer caught up with him, and after trying to speak with the man told him he was under arrest.

The officer used force to subdue the man and later spoke with him at the Garfield County jail.

That man said he was scared because he thought he had warrants for his arrest, but now realized he did not. He identified a different man, a 25-year-old, as the person who was stealing from storage units, and provided a name.

The storage units were broken into again, and on Feb. 28 investigators found surveillance video of a 25-year-old and the older man at a store, and believed they were connected.

The 25-year-old was arrested March 12, and booked in Garfield County Jail on charges of burglary and criminal mischief, both felonies, and theft of less than $2,000, a misdemeanor.

Two arrested for stealing from New Castle school

New Castle Police arrested two people for allegedly stealing $8,600 worth of computers, electronics cash and musical instruments from Elk Creek Elementary School.

The two suspects were seen on surveillance footage at the school around 1:40 a.m. March 11. They appeared to force their way in, and went around the school for about 20 minutes, and surveillance footage shows them walking around with iPads, according to a probable cause arrest document.

The pair returned around 2:20 a.m., and were seen carrying a guitar case and a trumpet case.

Later that same day, the school and police were able to track one of the missing laptops to a residence in town through Apple’s device tracker.

Driving through town around 5 p.m., a New Castle Police officer spotted a 31-year-old man near that residence matching the description and clothing from one of the subjects in the video. The suspect took off running, with the officer close behind.

The officer followed the man into the house, but stopped at the front door as the man ran up the stairs.

A vicious dog came out of the home, and the officer jumped outside and held the door shut, according to the police report.

A woman, 27, came to the door, and the officer explained that the man was under arrest for obstruction. But from the front door, he also saw a laptop computer that matched one of two missing from the school, as well as a speaker missing from the school music room.

An initial search of the residence on a warrant turned up the missing musical instruments, two of the four missing iPads, and other electronics reported stolen.

Both suspects were arrested for theft and burglary. The man also had warrants for misdemeanor charges in unrelated cases.

tphippen@postindependent.com

Girlfriend of man fatally shot by New Castle Police arrested

Investigators say Laura Ebbs assisted her boyfriend Eric Reynolds in robbery of a Glenwood Springs convenience store in January by driving a getaway car until it had a minor accident, where New Castle Police officers fatally shot Reynolds.

Ebbs, 37 and a resident of Parachute, faces charges of accessory to a robbery and vehicular eluding, both felonies.

Reynolds allegedly robbed El Azteca in West Glenwood Jan. 11, and Ebbs told police that she was driving the Subaru when he came out of the store.

Ebbs told police that she did not know what Reynolds was doing inside the store, but said when Reynolds “came running out and she didn’t know what was going on,” according to a probable cause document.

Reynolds told “go, go go, so she took off, Ebbs stated” according to the affidavit.

One man had walked into the store while Reynolds demanded the cashier open the cash register, and told police that he went back to his truck.

The truck followed the car Ebbs was driving, and kept in contact with emergency dispatch as the pair drove West on Interstate 70. Witnesses in the car told police they saw someone in the passengers’ seat drop something out of the window at one point that could have been a gun.

Ebbs told police that she kept driving out of fear she and Reynolds would get “gunned down,” since that’s what Reynolds kept saying, according to the affidavit.

New Castle Police attempted to stop them, but the car turned around and eluded them, eventually crashing in deteriorating winter conditions near mile marker 107, facing eastbound in the westbound lane of I-70.

Reynolds apparently got out of the vehicle, and several shots were fired.

According to Garfield County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Walt Stowe, Reynolds attempted to flee and allegedly brandished a weapon.

Ebbs told investigators that police had no reason to shoot Reynolds, and said he “was not a threat to nobody. He was upset, he was scared actually.”

She said he got out of the car and tried to run, but returned because the police had AR-15s, Ebbs said.

Investigators asked if he was getting into the car, or reaching for something in the car and Ebbs said she didn’t know.

Investigators did not find a gun where witnesses say they saw someone in the car throw something black out the door.

But they did find a gun at the crash scene near the driver’s side door where Reynolds fell after being shot.

Investigators also learned of several robberies that may have involved Reynolds and Ebbs.

A car matching Reynolds’ Subaru was tied to a Grand Junction robbery on Jan. 8. Another robbery in unincorporated Mesa County, and a home invasion could also be tied to the pair.

A witness to one of those robberies described a female matching Ebbs’ description, and wearing tall black boots. Similar boots were found in the backseat of the Subaru, according to the affidavit.

Ebbs was arrested March 3 and booked in the Garfield County jail, where she is being held on $10,000 bond.

tphippen@postindependent.com

Crime Briefs: bubble wrapped meth and alcohol shooters

Bubble-wrapped meth

Shortly after 3 a.m. Monday, Glenwood Springs Police observed a vehicle in a hotel parking lot with its lights off and engine running.

According to an arrest affidavit filed with the 9th Judicial District, officers recognized the white Nissan Maxima from a previous illegal camping complaint at a nearby convenience store off of U.S. Highway 6 in Glenwood Springs.

Upon approaching the vehicle, officers noticed a man and woman reclined and asleep in the Nissan’s two front seats.

The man in the driver’s seat had bubble wrap on his shoulder, a clear plastic bag beneath his arm and a pipe sticking out of his pocket according to the affidavit.

Officers woke up the 18-year-old man and asked him to exit the vehicle, the bubble wrap and clear plastic bag fell on the driver’s seat.

Officers noticed a white substance inside of the wrap, which later tested presumptive positive for methamphetamine and weighed 6 grams according to the affidavit.

The man “admitted to smoking meth but asserted that someone must have left the meth on his shoulder” according to the affidavit.

The man “could not say who left the meth on his shoulder” and told officers he should not be arrested but instead given a ticket.

The 18-year-old male suspect was transported to the Garfield County Jail and charged with unlawful possession of drug paraphernalia and unlawful possession of a controlled substance.

Man violates bail bond conditions with alcohol shooters

On March 8 at approximately 7:38 p.m., Carbondale Police conducted a traffic stop on a white van for driving without its headlights on.

The vehicle’s 39-year-old driver was smoking a cigarette and had “glossy eyes” according to the arrest affidavit.

The man provided officers with his license but failed to produce the vehicle’s registration and proof of insurance.

According to the affidavit, the 39-year-old man had two mandatory protection orders and was barred from possessing or consuming alcohol or controlled substances.

When officers asked who was in the backseat, the man allegedly said there was no one else in the van but him.

According to the affidavit, officers told the 39-year-old man they “could both see a head sticking out from under the blanket” in the backseat.

Officers removed the man from the vehicle, handcuffed him and located two alcohol shooters in his side pocket according to the affidavit.

The 36-year-old female that was underneath the blanket in the van’s backseat, also exited the vehicle.

According to the affidavit, the man’s mandatory protection orders prohibited him from contacting the female that was in his backseat. The female told officers that she was with the male suspect voluntarily.

After refusing a blood test due to being “afraid of the coronavirus,” the man took a breath test and had an alcohol concentration of .084 according to the affidavit.

Officers also found four diazepam pills and two muscle relaxants inside of the vehicle. According to the affidavit, no prescriptions were found for either drug.

The 39-year-old male was transported to the Garfield County Jail and charged with violating bail bond conditions, driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, unlawful possession of a controlled substance, failure to provide proof of insurance and false reporting to authorities.

mabennett@postindependent.com

Crews clear, seal cave homeless use near Glenwood Springs

For several days, crews in hazmat suits have been cleaning out an encampment in a cave east of Glenwood Springs on the Union Pacific Railroad line.

The clean-up has nothing to do with COVID-19 or other communicable diseases.

“This had nothing to do with any kind of infections disease or viruses,” said Glenwood Springs Police Department Lt. John Hassell.

The crews wore protective gear to keep themselves protected as they cleaned out a place many homeless have used as a shelter for years.

The cave, which sits east of Glenwood Springs on Union Pacific property, has been a campsite for homeless persons for years, but the railroad decided to seal it off this week.

“In recent weeks, those living in the area have made it impossible for our employees to safely do their work,” Union Pacific spokesperson Kristen South said in a statement.

“For example, human feces have been left on equipment that must be touched. Employees must be able to do their work, so we can safely and efficiently serve our customers,” South said.

The cave sits about 20 feet from the railroad tracks, and anyone accessing the cave is trespassing on Union Pacific land.

People have also been using a culvert underneath the tracks, South said.

The cave entrance and the culvert are being sealed, and the railroad is taking steps to prevent the area from being used as an illegal shelter.

Hassell said that some people who were staying in the cave were asked to remove their things.

The number of people camping there has been increasing in recent years, according to an employee at the train station.

“We’ve been dealing with transients here, and we have seen a slow and steady uptick,” said Eric Pederson, who works for AMTRAK at the Glenwood Springs station.

Hassell added that the police department’s practice is to provide homeless persons with information on contacting local charities.

tphippen@postindependent.com

Second case of child ingesting meth highlights Garfield County drug problem

A Glenwood Springs woman took her 23-month-old grandchild to the emergency room the evening of Feb. 10 after the child was acting abnormally hyper and wouldn’t settle down to sleep.

The child’s blood tested positive for methamphetamine, according to a probable cause document supporting the 19-year-old mother’s arrest, and the child was treated.

The grandmother told police that she had kicked her daughter out of the apartment they shared because of drugs, and the grandmother had sole custody of the toddler.

The mother told police that the child had found a small bag of the drugs in her backpack when she came to visit, and had apparently torn it open.

The mother faces charges of possession of a controlled substance, and child abuse.

That case came a few months after a 5-year-old Rifle girl died from drinking methamphetamine bong water in December.

Cases of children ingesting methamphetamine are too rare to track, according to a Valley View Hospital spokesperson.

Yet, across Colorado, arrests and prosecutions of drug felonies is increasing.

The 9th Judicial District, encompassing Garfield, Pitkin and Rio Blanco counties, saw an 85 percent increase in all drug felony charges from 2012 to 2017.

In 2019, the Glenwood Springs Police Department arrested 143 people on drug charges, compared to 109 in 2015.

As damaging as narcotics can be to the user, there are far-reaching, at times deadly consequences for those around them, and for the community.

Though new to Colorado, Glenwood Springs Police Chief Joseph Deras has encountered many drug users in his 28 years in law enforcement in California.

“We go and find small children in these environments, which are incredibly dangerous,” Deras said of his experience at previous agencies.

“The adults in the home, their primary focus is to find that drug and that next fix to stay high,” he said.

Police have a responsibility to protect children in such cases, Deras said.

Rifle Police Chief Tommy Klein said that the death of the child in December was the first time he’d seen a case of a child dying of methamphetamine use in his time in Rifle.

Klein said he isn’t sure methamphetamine use is increasing in western Garfield County, but he has made drug enforcement a priority in his three years at the department.

“In the last few years, we’ve been working a lot of our own drug cases, and making it a priority,” Klein said.

Prior to Klein’s leadership, drug cases in Rifle were usually referred to the Two Rivers Drug Enforcement Task Force.

Increased police enforcement of drug violations has helped maintain stability in the community, Klein said, but the broader drug problem doesn’t have a clear solution.

“Making an arrest for a drug violation is not making a dent in drug use over the long term,” Klein said.

When a drug user leaves jail, there are not sufficient treatment solutions, Klein said.

“We can’t arrest our way out of the drug problems. We need drug treatment programs, which are very expensive,” he added.

tphippen@postindependent.com

Car theft, meth in the courthouse, and a Rifle fight: Garfield County crime briefs

Car ride turns into auto theft

A man approached a Garfield County Sheriff’s deputy while he was fueling his patrol car in Battlement Mesa.

The man told the sheriff’s deputy “he had gone in to get a drink and the two girls he had given a ride to had stolen his car,” according to a probable cause arrest warrant.

The sheriff asked the man to wait in the store while he finished fueling up. The man came back a bit later and said he found the car, and didn’t need help.

About 40 minutes later, around 10 a.m. Feb. 24, the man called dispatch, and reported the vehicle, which belonged to his boss, as stolen.

The driver told the deputy he had given a ride to his friend’s girlfriend and another woman. The girlfriend, who is 36, was in a custody battle with his friend.

The driver said he left his phone, wallet and cell phone in the car and entered with one of the girls. But she said she left something in the car, and left the store. A few minutes later, he told the deputy, he realized the car was gone.

The woman was arrested Feb. 26 and faces charges of aggravated motor vehicle theft, a class-five felony, and two misdemeanor theft charges.

Two arrested after fight outside a Rifle bar

Rifle Police officers on foot patrol heard shouting around the 200 block of East Third Street downtown around 1 a.m. Sunday.

They heard a man shout, “do you want to get stabbed?” repeatedly, and the sound of scuffling, according to a probable cause document.

The officers approached the group of three men, who ran when they saw the cops’ flashlights.

One officer recognized one of the men from previous encounters, and believed he was the one shouting about stabbing. The officer recalled the man, who is 21, had a large folding knife.

With help of a Garfield County Sheriff’s deputy, the police caught up with the man, and called an ambulance because he was “bleeding severely from his head,” the police officer wrote in the affidavit.

Witnesses at a bar where the men had been told police that the suspect had been drunk and obnoxious, had threatened to slap a girl and made vulgar statements before getting kicked out.

Another man, 26, who took off running was also caught by police and questioned.

He said the 21-year-old had threatened to stab him, but he denied being in a fight. The officers seized his clothes at the hospital, because there appeared to be fresh blood on his pants.

He was arrested and charged with assault in the heat of passion, a class 6 felony.

The man with the knife received several staples to his head, and had several broken teeth. He was arrested and charged with menacing with a knife, a class 5 felony.

Both men were charged with obstruction.

Man arrested with meth in pocket, lies about it

Glenwood Springs police arrested a man on a misdemeanor warrant Feb. 20 at the Garfield County Courthouse.

Police had been advised that the suspect, a 23 year old man, was at the courthouse to meet with pretrial services, and they arrested him there.

On the short walk to the Garfield County Jail, police told the man that if he had anything illegal on him, and brought it into the jail, he would face additional charges.

The man said “that he had nothing illegal in his possession,” the officer wrote in a probable cause document.

But when the Garfield County Sheriff’s Deputy at the jail took the suspect’s belongings, they found a glassy shard inside a plastic bag, weighing .5 grams. The shard later tested positive for methamphetamine.

The officers also found two dozen pills in his shorts, some used to treat overdose and narcotic addiction, others used as prescription sedatives.

He was charged with possession of methamphetamine, a drug felony, and introducing contraband.

tphippen@postindependent.com

Man who took hostages in 2015 incident on Independence Pass near Aspen sentenced to 12 years in prison

A Colorado Springs Realtor was sentenced to 12 years in prison Monday for holding three men hostage at gunpoint on Independence Pass in July 2015 and repeatedly threatening to kill them.

“I had no intention of harming anyone that day,” Brolin McConnell said in court Monday before he was sentenced. “I am extremely sorry for what they have gone through and what the community has gone through.

“I’m not the same person (I was) prior to going insane.”

McConnell’s case has been through numerous stages since he used two handguns to hold the three young men hostage for more than an hour four-and-a-half years ago on Lincoln Creek Road. He initially pleaded not guilty to the 18 felonies, including attempted first-degree murder, that had been filed against him.

But after a year and a half in the Pitkin County Jail, McConnell changed his plea to not guilty by reason of insanity. That delayed the case another 14 months while psychiatrists at the state hospital in Pueblo examined him and eventually found him sane.

McConnell, 34, pleaded guilty in December to criminal attempt to commit first-degree kidnapping and felony menacing and faced between eight and 20 years in prison as part of a plea deal with the District Attorney’s Office.

McConnell was scheduled to be sentenced a month ago, but his Denver-based lawyer wasn’t able to land in Aspen because of weather. However, one of the three victims who’d traveled to Aspen from his home in Hawaii spoke at that time so he would not have to return Monday for the actual sentencing.

“Prior to this incident I was just a simple kid from Hawaii,” Blake Ramelb said last month. “Now I can’t go anywhere without images (from that day) in my head. My life is forever held hostage by this man.”

Ramelb had a foot injury that day and could not easily run away from McConnell, which the two other hostages were able to do. Ramelb said he begged McConnell repeatedly not to shoot him.

“I said, ‘I’m not ready to die,’” Ramelb said.

McConnell, however, merely smiled at his pain and repeatedly threatened to shoot him in various parts of his body and watch him “bleed out,” Ramelb said.

McConnell fired a shot from one of the guns at Ramelb’s feet and another beside his head. An Aspen Police officer witnessed McConnell fire the shot next to Ramelb’s head and said he thought Ramelb was a dead man. Ramelb thought the same thing.

“I knew the next shot would be the one that would take my life,” he said. “I was begging the officers to help me.”

Ramelb said he will not feel safe once McConnnell gets out of prison.

A second hostage, who asked not be identified, spoke in court Monday and said he’s been robbed at gunpoint twice in Dallas, where he’s from, and that McConnell scares him far more than those robbers. McConnell pointed the handgun at his head, threatened to shoot him in the face and kept flicking the gun’s safety on and off all the while smiling and making odd statements and jokes, he said.

When McConnell asked them to “get in an execution line,” he said he looked at his friend who he’d gone up to Lincoln Creek with to camp, and thought, “See you in the next life.”

Today, he said he thinks of the incident daily, has “trust issues,” routinely sits in the back of rooms and has nightmares that can ruin his entire week.

“I’m fearful for my life and he’s not even in prison yet,” the victim said Monday.

Prosecutor Don Nottingham read a statement from the third hostage, Mark Meredith, who said he has post-traumatic stress disorder from the incident. He said it affects his ability to go to school and that he’s been told he needs to get therapy, but doesn’t have time for it.

“To say that this changed the trajectory of my life is an understatement,” Meredith said.

All three men asked District Judge Chris Seldin to impose the maximum 20-year sentence.

Nottingham also urged the judge to give McConnell the maximum, saying it was “one of the most terrifying and dangerous” incidents to have occurred here in recent years.

But Harvey Steinberg, McConnell’s lawyer, reminded the judge that his client had no prior criminal history, did not plan to take people hostage and that he suffers from mental health issues.

“This case is driven by mental illness that clearly Mr. McConnell was suffering from at the time,” Steinberg said. “He simply lost it that day.”

McConnell has since been prescribed medicine that treated his mental health symptoms and “settled him down,” Steinberg said.

McConnell’s mother said her son “had been under great stress” at the time of the incident because of his workload, lack of sleep and a recent divorce. He’s also suffered while in jail, when he lost both his houses, all his possessions and money and, most importantly, his two children’s childhoods, she said.

“Brolin has always been a thoughtful son to us,” said Noreen McConnell, adding that he’s never been violent. “He’s a hard worker with a strong ethic.”

Judge Seldin wondered aloud Monday how differently things might have turned out if no guns were present. In that case, McConnell likely would have received probation focused on mental health treatment, he said.

As it was, the situation “turned out about as bad as it could” without anyone ending up dead, Seldin said.

However, a 20-year prison sentence would only serve as retribution when what McConnell really needs is consistent mental health treatment, the judge said. Seldin urged McConnell’s friends and family members — many of whom attended Monday’s sentencing — to help him deal with the paranoid delusions he experiences by ensuring he takes his medication.

McConnell was given credit for the 1,315 days he’s already spent in jail in Pitkin County.

jauslander@aspentimes.com

Carbondale family embroiled in water lawsuit with Wexner ranch

A Carbondale ranch owner avoided a contempt of court charge Monday in an increasingly acrimonious water rights dispute with a ranch owned by the Les Wexner family.

Cassie Cerise owns land bordering with and downstream from the Barretta LLC, controlled by the Wexner family, about 2.5 miles north of Highway 82 on Crystal Springs Road.

The Wexners own around 6,000 acres on the base of Mount Sopris, according to reports from the Aspen Times, as well as 30 acres on Red Mountain near Aspen.

Wexner stepped down from L Brands, the company he founded as The Limited, Inc., in February. In the past year, Wexner has been criticized for his financial backing of Jeffrey Epstein, and for the allegedly hostile work environment of subsidiary company Victoria’s Secret.

Judge Berkley Boyd noted individuals on both sides of the lawsuit have used the pejorative hand sign colloquially known as “the bird.” Cerise claims in testimony Monday that she and her family has been abused and harassed by Barretta employees and security guards hired to watch the road.

The contempt accusation alleges that Cerise broke a June 4, 2019 order from Boyd which set speed restrictions for Cerise driving on Barretta ranch property. The court stepped in after allegations that people associated with Barretta had been forced to jump off roadways to avoid being struck by cars, and a temporary protection order against Cerise’s husband that has since expired.

Boyd’s order set a 20 mph speed limit, and a 5 mph limit if near Barretta representatives.

Boyd named certain routes as the only places Cerise would be able to drive on Barretta property, but did not expressly include the road Cerise uses to access her cabin on the property.

Cerise testified Monday that after reading the order, she realized, “under this order I (couldn’t) go home that night.”

Attorneys for both parties requested an amendment but disagreed about what the order meant. To Cerise, it meant the speed restrictions didn’t apply to the road leading to her cabin, for which she has a deeded easement. Barretta LLC’s attorney Kevin Patrick argued that the order meant speed restrictions and rules of the road applied to all Barretta property.

After a 5 hour hearing Monday, Boyd decided the rule was unclear.

”I would have to conclude that the order is ambiguous as to these deeded easements,” Boyd said. “That would make it inappropriate to impose a criminal-like consequence for potentially violating this order.”

But disregarding the rules of the road is just one of many instances of alleged abuse by Cerise, who in turn has leveled plenty of complaints against people associated with Barretta.

“We have been surveilled basically constantly since Barretta took over the property,” Cerise testified Monday.

The Barretta property houses and trains horses used on the Wexner’s other ranch near Carbondale during summer visits, according to trainer Susan Eoff. She testified Monday that there have been numerous incidents of unsafe driving on the road the Cerises use over the Barretta ranch.

After Boyd’s order, Cerise said she was frequently followed or watched by security guards while driving over the road easement.

Cerise is not the only person related to the case to face criminal accusations in fallout from the lawsuit.

Scott Haycock, a former irrigator for Barretta, is now accused of felony perjury for an affidavit seeking a permanent protection order against Cerise’s husband, Tim Fenton, in May 2019.

Haycock’s affidavit alleges Fenton came “within inches of my face, screaming and threatening me with harm” if he touched a shared splitter box on the Barretta Property.

In courtroom testimony May 23, Haycock said Fenton never threatened to touch him, and revealed that he did not draft the affidavit — Barretta attorney Patrick did, according to the perjury summons.

Haycock appeared to recant in a May 31 hearing when he said Fenton was on the other side of a fence and not inches away.

A tape of the incident heard Fenton repeating, “don’t steal my f-ing water,” and Haycock responding, “I didn’t steal your f-ing water,” Cerise’s attorney Tom Silverman said Monday.

Boyd said his order was intended to keep everyone involved safe, and to encourage the neighbors to coexist.

That clearly isn’t happening, Boyd said, and he had criticism for both parties.

Cerise’s narrow definition of the boundaries of the order, and Barretta’s hiring of security to watch a road that only Cerise and her family uses, “does not show neighbors trying to get along,” Boyd said.

“Nobody’s going to be happy if you don’t find a way to get along,” he added.

tphippen@postindependent.com