| PostIndependent.com

Two Mind Springs workers arrested in Mesa County on extortion charges

A senior director at Mind Springs Health and a former worker at its Circle Program were arrested and jailed late Thursday on criminal charges, local and state documents show.

Megan Navarro, senior clinical director, and Gary Swenson, a former peer counselor at Mind Springs’ residential treatment program in Grand Junction, were arrested and placed in the Mesa County Jail — each charged with criminal extortion and attempting to influence a public servant.

Both are listed as class 4 felonies, punishable by up to 6 years in prison on each charge.

According to their arrest affidavit, the charges have nothing to do with their positions at the Clifton Circle Program, which is a residential treatment program for men ages 18 and over who have substance abuse and mental health disorders.

The affidavit says it stems from separate criminal arrests of Swenson last October for third-degree assault, harassment, second-degree criminal tampering and domestic violence.

The new charges relate to Navarro, who appears to have a romantic relationship with Swenson, purposely working with him to deceive a worker with the Mesa County Pre-Trial Services, specifically lying about how long Swenson worked at the Circle Program, the affidavit says.

The deception involved how long Swenson had worked at the Circle Program in order for him to get a lower bond and not be kept in the jail, according to the affidavit.

“Navarro directing Swenson to deceive Pre-Trial Services Officer (Barry Gordon) and then Swenson telling public servants — pre-trial service officers — that he has been employed locally for 1½ years is vastly different from reality where Swenson had only been working at Mind Springs for three months or so,” James Cannon, an investigator in the Mesa County District Attorney’s Office, wrote in the affidavit.

“Swenson’s and Navarro’s conversations regarding trying to effect the actions and decisions of those involved in his bail bond was clearly to deceive people for Swenson’s benefit of a lower, less restrictive bond,” Cannon added.

Numerous telephone calls had been recorded between the two because Swenson had used the jail’s “Inmate Calling Solutions” phone system, which is monitored and recorded by jail personnel, who reported the conversations.

Both Swenson and Navarro have extensive arrest records.

Swenson, 46, has been arrested and convicted numerous times for decades on such charges as vehicle theft, fraud, criminal impersonation, drug possession, burglary, weapon offenses, receipt of stolen property, hit and run, reckless and careless driving, vehicular eluding, reckless endangerment and assault, according to a 17-page criminal history report obtained through the Colorado Bureau of Investigations.

Navarro, 39, has had numerous arrests on drug-related offenses and failure-to-appear charges, a seven-page CBI report shows.

Ironically, Swenson was featured in a Colorado Sun story last October, the same month he was arrested by Grand Junction police. In that story, he talked about the difficulties in helping people in the Circle program in their efforts to rebuild their lives.

“Your employer has to be real understanding, which they’re usually not,” he said in the story, adding that he had learned from his mistakes.

He had been dismissed from that job in November, according to the affidavit.

John Sheehan, president and chief executive officer at Mind Springs Health, said it’s common practice for mental- and behavioral-health employers to hire people like Swenson and Navarro because they know what their clients are going through.

That employment, however, is contingent on those workers staying out of trouble with the law themselves.

“Our business believes in redemption, so people that have gone through tough times or have turned their lives around often seek positions in our industry,” Sheehan said.

“Megan is an example of that. She’s gone through very difficult times and has gotten herself to a level where she is in an executive position at Mind Springs; but this kind of behavior, if it’s true, is not something we can tolerate in an executive,” he added. “They have to keep themselves clean, and they have to keep themselves out of contact with law enforcement, particularly in Megan’s situation where she’s worked her way up. Unfortunately, this may be a situation where she’s going to face the consequences for that.”

All remaining charges against Basalt chiropractor dropped

A district court judge Thursday dismissed the remaining criminal counts against the owner of a Basalt-based chiropractor office who had been under grand-jury indictment for allegedly cooperating with one of his massage therapists accused of sexually assaulting clients.

Dr. Dave Jensen, who was arrested in August on a 21-count indictment, no longer faces charges after the prosecution asked Eagle County District Judge Paul Dunkelman in a motion filed this week to throw out the case. Dunkelman responded with a written order dismissing the final charges. 

“He’s innocent, and the case was mishandled by the authorities from the beginning,” said Kate Stimson, a Denver defense lawyer for Jensen. “And, thankfully, it’s over for him, and he shares that feeling.”

Jensen was not going to comment Thursday, according to Stimson, who said prosecutors based their case largely on grand-jury testimony from former Basalt Police Officer Thomas Wright, who “lied under oath.” 

According to Aspen Daily News reporting, Wright testified during the closed grand-jury hearing that Jensen referred clients to Nathaniel Gordon, a massage therapist on contract at the Win Health Institute, while knowing Gordon’s illicit intentions. 

Jensen is the founder and owner of Win Health Institute, which had been a midvalley destination for folks seeking massage therapy, chiropractic services, acupuncture, and other methods of alternative-healing. The business currently is not operating.

Authorities arrested Gordon in November 2021 on a mix of 21 misdemeanor and felony charges associated with accusations that he inappropriately touched and sexually assaulted female clients who had used Win Health Institute’s services. He is awaiting trial.

In an attempt to hold him criminally accountable for Gordon’s alleged behavior, Eagle County prosecutors levied identical charges against Jensen after the grand-jury indictment. The argument was that he had a complicit role in Gordon’s alleged crimes, though there were no accusations that Jensen had wrongful sexual relations or illegal contact with the clients.

The case against Jensen began to lose traction in December when Dunkelman tossed out four charges against him because they lacked probable cause, and the DA dropped 10 more the same month, according to accounts from the Daily News. Jensen was scheduled to appear in court Friday to face the four remaining counts. That hearing was canceled after the judge’s order. 

The 5th Judicial District Attorney’s Office posted a brief statement on its website about the dismissal: “The Fifth Judicial District Attorney’s Office is requesting that the case against Dr. Dave Jensen be dismissed — without prejudice. He originally faced several charges of being complicit in a case of sexual misconduct (by one of his employees) with clients at his WIN Institute in Basalt.” 

Responding to a question about Jensen’s cooperation with prosecutors in their case against Gordon, Fifth Judicial DA spokesman John Ryan said, “We’ve spoken with the victims in this case, and they all agree in our office’s decision to move forward in this direction.” 

By dismissing the charges without prejudice, the prosecution has the ability to refile the same or similar charges in the event that potentially incriminating evidence surfaces against Jensen. 

That won’t happen because he is innocent of the charges, Stimson said. 

“We’re just happy the case was dismissed because he is innocent,” she said.

rcarroll@aspentimes.com

Eagle County deputies shoot, kill man in Edwards during domestic incident

Eagle County Sheriff’s Office deputies shot and killed a man around 9 p.m. Tuesday after responding to a domestic situation in Edwards.

According to a release from the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office, deputies responded to a call reporting a domestic situation involving an armed male and a female. Deputies attempted to de-escalate the situation with verbal commands from the front porch of the Edwards residence.

When the male suspect came outside with a gun, officers shot and killed the man, according to the release.

No other injuries were reported from the incident. 

The investigation of the shooting has been turned over to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation and remains open and ongoing. The names of the involved parties will not be released until the investigation is concluded.

The deputies involved have been placed on paid administrative leave, per Eagle County Sheriff’s Office policy. The Colorado Bureau of Investigation’s involvement is to ensure that the investigation is conducted in a thorough, fair and impartial manner.

To report information or for questions about this case, the Colorado Bureau of Investigation can be reached at 970-248-7500. 

Glenwood Springs man accused of threatening Summit schools on social media tells judge he doesn’t own any guns

The Glenwood Springs man accused of threatening Summit schools on social media told a judge Thursday, Jan. 26, that he doesn’t own any guns.

The day after he allegedly made threats on Summit Daily’s Instagram page, Charles Draughn, 26, appeared before Summit County Judge Edward Casias by video from the county jail for a bond advisement hearing.

Prosecutors have charged Draughn with felony menacing; misdemeanor menacing; and interfering with faculty, staff and students of educational institutions. Casias set his bond at $100,000 at the time of his arrest and did not reduce it Thursday.

“The court found grave concern for the safety of different people, from faculty to administrators to staff of the schools within Summit County,” Casias said during the hearing.

Just before midnight Tuesday, police received a report of threats posted to the Summit Daily Instagram page, according to an affidavit in support of an arrest warrant filed in the case. The posts by the account included statements like, “I know every name the teachers in summit they will know my name and my AR really nicely” and “People WILL start dying in Summit County,” the affidavit states.

The threats prompted an increased police presence at Summit County schools and prompted schools in Garfield, Eagle and Pitkin counties to go on secure lockout status Wednesday when police tracked Draughn to the Roaring Fork Valley. Summit, Eagle, Roaring Fork, Garfield Re-2 and Aspen District schools opened with safety protocols in place while police were searching for the suspect. Those were lifted when Draughn was arrested later in the morning.

The threatening comments were made on a post about a recent Summit County School Board decision related to LGBTQ+ issues, and one threat took aim at a school administrator who was mentioned in the post by name.

But Draughn said at the hearing Thursday that he didn’t know anyone in Summit School District.

“I honestly don’t know the names of anyone,” he said.

Casias also noted Draughn’s lack of ties to the community, stating Draughn “doesn’t have any relationship dynamic to this community, which would prevent them from acting on such threats.”

The affidavit states that law enforcement was able to trace the IP address used to create the Instagram account to a Comcast account owned by Draughn.

Another of Draughn’s social media accounts included a photo of him holding a handgun, according to the affidavit. Investigators noted in the affidavit that Draughn was on probation related to a third-degree assault case out of Clear Creek County at the time of his arrest and prohibited from possessing firearms.

In response to a question from Casias, Draughn said during the hearing that he does not own any guns. Jessica Dennis, a lawyer representing Draughn, said that the picture of him with a handgun was from 2016 and was not taken in Colorado.

Dennis argued for a “pretty drastic reduction” in Draughn’s bond. Dennis said Draughn has had steady, full-time employment for over a year, which he is afraid of losing because it could impact his housing situation and his ability to pay child support for his son in another state.

Should Draughn post bond, he would be required to abide by the terms of a protection order. Those terms would include not owning or possessing a firearm, staying 100 yards away from all Summit School District property and having no contact with victims. He would also have to wear a GPS monitor.

Draughn requested a preliminary hearing where the court will review the probable cause in his case. That hearing is scheduled for Feb. 6.

Roaring Fork Valley schools reopened after general threats made, suspect in custody

Editor’s note: This story has been updated with the latest information from law enforcement, judicial and school officials.

Schools up and down the Roaring Fork Valley were reopened Wednesday morning following a valley-wide “Secure” lockout due to online threats made by a suspect against Summit County schools, but who has local connections and was located in the valley.

Charles Draughn, 26, of Glenwood Springs, was being held in the custody of the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office on an active felony warrant out of Summit County on Wednesday, a press release from the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Department states. He was expected to be transferred to Summit County to face charges.

Suspect Charles Draughn
Pitkin County Detention photo

According to the Pitkin County release, the sheriff’s department was notified Wednesday morning by the Garfield County Communications Authority of an individual who made a threat to schools in Summit County. The individual was believed to be in Pitkin County, and information obtained from law enforcement sources suggested the individual was armed.

All schools in Pitkin County and the Roaring Fork School District, as well as Garfield Re-2 in Rifle, Silt and New Castle, went on “Secure” lockout status at approximately 8:50 a.m., according to the release. Location data obtained from law enforcement partners indicated the individual was in the Old Snowmass area.

Watson Divide Road and Snowmass Creek Road were closed to restrict the public’s access to Old Snowmass to ensure the public’s safety and to allow law enforcement to operate safely.

The suspect was taken into custody at 10:02 a.m. at an address in the Old Snowmass area. Road closures were lifted at approximately 10:15 a.m., and the school lockouts were subsequently lifted, as well.

Fifth Judicial District Attorney Heidi McCollum said in a Wednesday news release that Draughn allegedly made threats Tuesday on the Summit Daily newspaper’s Instagram account, threatening teachers and Summit School District staff, including Superintendent Tony Byrd.

Draughn faces charges of felony and misdemeanor menacing, and interference with staff/faculty and students of educational institutions.

“I want to thank the reporting of these posts to Summit County law enforcement, and the immediate attention and subsequent investigation by the Frisco and Dillon Police Departments, Summit County Sheriff’s Office, and the Colorado Bureau of Investigation to locate and apprehend this defendant,” McCollum said in the release. “This quick and coordinated response, along with assistance from both Pitkin and Garfield County law enforcement agencies, most certainly helped to avoid what could have been another tragic incident in our community.”

Draughn was expected to be transferred from Pitkin County to Summit County for prosecution, the release said. He is being held on a $100,000 cash/surety bond and was to be advised of the charges against him in Summit District Court on Thursday.

Law enforcement tracking of the suspect led to Carbondale and eventually to Old Snowmass on Wednesday morning before Draughn was arrested.

Suspect tracked to Carbondale

A separate news release from the Carbondale Police Department said Draughn’s phone GPS location pinged in Carbondale, and eventually tracked to a local business where Draughn worked.

“The man’s car was found in the parking lot,” the Carbondale release states. “The man had started his shift and was tracked to Old Snowmass. The man was located and safely taken into custody by Pitkin County Sheriff’s deputies.

“Carbondale officers determined there was no direct threat to Carbondale schools,” the release stated. “School districts lifted the ‘Secure’ after determining there was no threat.”

That lockout status was lifted just before 10:30 a.m., according to an email from RFSD Superintendent Jesús Rodríguez to district parents, students and staff.

“We know that situations like this are frightening for staff, students, and parents alike. The safety of students and staff is our first priority, which is why we implement our protocols whenever there is any possible threat to safety,” Rodríguez wrote in an email.

District Public Information Officer Kelsy Been also clarified that schools were not on full lockdown, but were on Secure lockout status at the direction of local law enforcement, though some schools in Carbondale and Glenwood Springs were inadvertently asked to go on lockdown before amending the order.

A “lockout” protocol occurs whenever there is a potential threat outside the building, and means students must remain inside but classes continue as normal, whereas a “lockdown” is implemented when there’s an internal threat, she explained.

“We know that asking students and staff to go into Lockdown can be traumatic,” the district said in a statement explaining the situation. “We will be working with law enforcement to ensure that the correct precaution is always called. We appreciate our partnership with law enforcement and the prompt response from all of our schools.”

Likewise, an email from Aspen School District states the district was notified by police there was a credible threat made that resulted in all ASD schools going into Secure, meaning doors were locked and no one was permitted to enter or leave the building. Students were made aware they should remain in the building, however “business as usual” remained in the building and students could use the restroom and transition between classes normally.

Law enforcement secured all building entrances and the lockout was in place for approximately 90 minutes, the ASD email states.

Threats related to Summit schools LGBTQ+ student stance

The Summit County School District also sent an email to families alerting them to an increased police presence at all schools “as multiple law enforcement agencies investigate a threat outside of Summit County.”

The email, which was shared with Summit Daily, stated that students and staff at school Wednesday were safe and that the threats were made against administration not students. The school district restricted visitation and planned to hold recess indoors, but schedules operated as normal, according to the email.

The incident stems from threatening Instagram comments allegedly made by Draughn on Tuesday, according to the 5th Judicial District Attorney’s Office.

An Instagram profile posted several statements to the Summit Daily’s Instagram page on a post about Summit School District leaders defending an LGBTQ+ resolution.

That post linked to and contained information from Summit Daily reporting on a Jan. 12 meeting of the Summit School District Board of Education. About 100 people turned out to that meeting, many demanding board members rescind the resolution and refrain from teaching anything related to gay, queer and transgender identities to kindergarten through third-grade students.

School officials at the time defended the resolution and said sexual content is not taught to the district’s youngest students. After the meeting, Byrd told Summit Daily that the public comments “absolutely got more aggressive than I’ve ever seen in this district and frankly more aggressive than I’ve seen in my career” and described a concern for school officials’ safety.

The Instagram user took aim at Byrd and Summit County teachers in the comment section Tuesday, making comments like “people WILL start d Y i NG in summit county,” “the teachers in summit they will know my name and my ar really nicely” and “Tony Byrd will stop breathing soon.”

Byrd said Tuesday that there is no evidence that the commenter making threats was responding to the resolution in support of LGBTQ+ students.

The Roaring Fork Schools Board of Education last fall also addressed LGBTQ+ issues, passing a resolution of support for LGBTQ+ students and staff and supporting an LGBTQ+ “toolkit” designed to support and affirm gender expansive and nonconforming students.

Audrey Ryan of The Aspen Times [aryan@aspentimes.com], Ryan Spencer [rspencer@summitdaily.com] and Glenwood Springs senior reporter and Interim Managing Editor John Stroud [jstroud@postindependent.com] contributed to this report.

Law enforcement in contact with Glenwood Springs man accused of shooting at police officers without attorney’s knowledge, defense argues

A defense attorney for the Glenwood Springs man accused of erratically firing a weapon at police officers and his roommates last summer argued his client is being interrogated without legal counsel by his side.

Craig Robbins, at the time 44, allegedly shot his roommate — also his acting landlord — in the abdomen over an eviction altercation in July 2022. The roommate survived.

Robbins also took another roommate hostage and eventually began firing upon a Glenwood Springs police officer coincidentally patrolling the 1000 block of Riverview Drive at the time. This led to an hours-long standoff between Robbins and several responding officers.

Negotiators successfully talked Robbins out of the house without anyone else getting hurt.

Robbins, charged with five counts of attempted first-degree murder, was booked into the Garfield County Detention Center on a $2 million bond.

Craig Allen Robbins

Public defender Alex Haynes on Tuesday told 9th Judicial District Judge Anne Norrdin that Robbins, since then, is being contacted by law enforcement without any legal counsel there to protect his rights.

“Law enforcement is having contact with my client without counsel’s knowledge,” Haynes said. “It’s my understanding that Mr. Robbins was expressing throughout the duration of that contact, ‘Where’s my lawyer? What’s happening? Where’s my lawyer?’

“We certainly should have been apprised.”

Haynes also accused the state of mishandling the collection of a DNA samples taken from Robbins, which is detailed in a discovery violation motion filed by his defense.

“Since the first one was improperly executed, I certainly expect to be apprised of any future contact with Mr. Robbins,” he said.

Haynes then requested a preliminary hearing be set on all of Robbins’ counts, including any crimes of violence. This would allow defense witnesses to come testify during the preliminary hearing. 

Deputy District Attorney Heidi Bauer objected to the preliminary hearing being set on any crimes of violence.

“I think we can brief that issue if we need to,” she said. “But I do understand that we’re going to set prelim on all other accounts. I expect it would be half day. I don’t expect that there’s a need for defense witnesses because it is a prelim.”

Norrdin did allow any briefings to be filed by Haynes within three weeks.

A preliminary hearing for Robbins, where prosecutors must present enough evidence to take the case to trial, is now set for 9 a.m. May 1.

No more jail time for former New Castle police chief arrested for pointing semi-automatic rifle at neighbor while intoxicated

Ninth Judicial District Attorney Jefferson Cheney said Tony Pagni, the former New Castle police chief who pleaded guilty on Tuesday to pointing an AK-style rifle at his neighbor while intoxicated last summer, was suffering a crisis the night he committed the crime.

This is a main reason why Cheney advocated for Pagni, having served a total of two days in jail after his arrest, to not receive any more jail time. Instead, District Judge Anne Norrdin waived what could have been a 364-day jail sentence and placed Pagni on supervised probation.

Cheney specifically brought up July 3, 2001 — the day Steven Michael Stagner shot and killed four Mexican nationals outside of a Rifle supermarket.

“That incident obviously prompted the response of multiple law enforcement agencies across Garfield County,” he said. “One of the officers that responded was Tony Pagni.”

Cheney then expressed sympathy for Pagni’s mental state, saying “the burden became too heavy” for Pagni.

Tony Pagni

“In the sea of criticism that we hear on a daily basis from the media about law enforcement, I want to at least provide, maybe, a minority opinion,” Cheney said. “That is, when we sleep at night, the first responders are law enforcement officers. They have been called upon to respond, and for over 30 years Tony Pagni has responded, including that night that people were killed.”

Cheney went on to say that he himself has been to war and knows the negative effects of post traumatic stress disorder.

“These decades of law enforcement experience were caught up with (Pagni), his personal life,” Cheney said.

Pagni, now 59, was arrested on July 29, 2022. Arrest records show that Pagni was intoxicated when he decided to walk down the street in his neighborhood while brandishing the semi-automatic rifle. 

It was during this time he confronted his neighbor, David Pudil, at Pudil’s front door. Pagni began randomly accusing Pudil of killing his wife, and in the process pressed the muzzle of the weapon into Pudil’s chest and threatened to “muzzle thump” him. Nobody was hurt in the incident.

Pagni, however, later barricaded himself in his own home until he was arrested peacefully. He was then charged with menacing involving a deadly weapon, a class 5 felony, and two misdemeanors: prohibited use of a weapon while intoxicated and harassment.

Pagni was then released on a personal recognizance bond less than three days later. The town of New Castle also fired Pagni, their police chief since 2014, soon after the incident.

Pudil joined in via an online communication system for Pagni’s Tuesday plea hearing. He said he’s been Pagni’s neighbor for the past 19 years and that “he’s been a great neighbor” and “I love him dearly.”

“I do want to say that I understand the circumstances that took place back on July 29 of 2022,” Pudil said. “I understand that Tony Pagni was under some duress, and I want to work with him as a neighbor and as a friend to get him through this.”

Norrdin agreed that Pagni has been appropriately held accountable for his actions. Pagni pleaded guilty to count two of a misdemeanor prohibited use of a weapon charge, while the felony count was dismissed. Norrdin then sentenced Pagni to 18 months of supervised probation, stipulating that Pagni continue to undergo substance abuse treatment. Pagni was not ordered to pay any restitution.

“The criminal justice system is often an imperfect place to achieve justice, but it does seem to me that justice is being achieved in this case for Mr. Pudil, who was, I’m sure, incredibly terrified by the experience that he went through due to Mr. Pagni’s actions,” Norrdin said. “But also that this process was a wake-up call for Mr. Pagni to start to get the help that he needs for the trauma that he has himself gone through as a first responder in the community for decades.”

Post Independent western Garfield County reporter and Assistant Editor Ray K. Erku can be reached at 612-423-5273 or rerku@postindependent.com

Six arrested after multiple law enforcement agencies serve stolen vehicle warrant near Silt

Multiple stolen vehicles, over a pound of methamphetamine and four firearms were discovered Thursday after the Rifle Police Department and other law enforcement agencies served a stolen vehicle warrant on a property near Silt, a Garfield County Sheriff’s Office news release states.

Responding law enforcement agencies also included the multi-jurisdictional task force, SPEAR, which was assisted by Colorado River Fire Rescue and Garfield County Emergency Communication Authority.

“In the process of contacting people at the property, investigators observed items related to the use of controlled substances,” the release states. “Investigators then cleared the property of additional people to avoid the destruction of evidence and for officer safety.”

Law enforcement then obtained a second, more broad search warrant and discovered the items noted above as well as 9 pounds of marijuana, according to the release. In total three stolen vehicles and three stolen motorcycles were recovered.

Those arrested face a variety of charges ranging from assault on a police officer, outstanding warrants and possession with intent to distribute, the release states.

Garfield County sheriff severs jail agreement, Pitkin inmates will now go to Eagle County

A working relationship between the Garfield and Pitkin County jails ended last week after a new sheriff took office in Aspen. 

Eagle County Detention Facility is the new holding place for inmates of Pitkin County who are incarcerated for more than 48 hours, such as those who don’t bond out or are awaiting trial. Seven inmates were transferred to the Eagle facility on Thursday after Pitkin County officials began scrambling Tuesday to find a new home for them. 

Until Tuesday, Garfield and Pitkin counties were operating under an intra-governmental agreement reached nearly two years ago. Joe DiSalvo, Pitkin County’s sheriff at the time, determined its own 24-bed jailhouse was outdated and too small to safely operate in its current state. DiSalvo and Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario negotiated a three-year agreement that received commissioners’ approval in March 2021 and called for Garfield County Jail to house Pitkin’s detainees with extended stays. 

“The Garfield County Sheriff is willing to provide such housing for individual detainees and confined persons under the terms and conditions of the agreement and until such time as Pitkin County is able to house its own detainees, as long as progress toward a new or remodeled jail facility is moving forward,” said a memo to Pitkin County commissioners in advance of a March 2021 meeting where they approved the IGA. 

Vallario said in an email sent to newly-minted Sheriff Michael Buglione that he was severing the agreement because of Bulglione’s stated campaign position last fall that Pitkin County did not need a new jail.

County Manager Jon Peacock and Buglione said during a press briefing Thursday that they received emails from Vallario after the noon inauguration on Tuesday, when Buglione took an oath of office and, since then, had been seeking other options to the Garfield County Jail. 

“Due to the election, the personalities and philosophies have changed. I have no desire to build a personal relationship with your new sheriff, but I will maintain a professional demeanor as our paths cross. I’ll be asking the Garfield BOCC to terminate the IGA pursuant to this agreement,” said Vallario’s letter to Peacock.

Vallario’s decision did not come out of the blue. 

His wife, Kim Vallario, had been Pitkin County’s jail administrator since April 2018. A DiSalvo hire, her voluntary resignation became official Jan. 4. Given that her husband holds conservative views and he supported lightning-rod U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Silt, her surname didn’t go over well with Democrats in Pitkin County, who nominated Buglione to run against the unaffiliated, three-term sheriff, DiSalvo. Left-leaning foes of DiSalvo hammered him on that point. 

“We anticipated that, because of the tone of some of the letters (to the newspapers during the sheriff’s race) and such, that is, not necessarily Michael’s campaign’s conversation,” Peacock said. “But, there’s definitely some community conversation. So, we did do some scenario-planning just in case this agreement was canceled.”

The options, however, were not the most desirable, he said. One would have been to eliminate the Pitkin County Jail’s work-release program to make room for inmates staying longer than 48 hours. An upgrade on the jailhouse’s work-release section was finished last year. Another option was to relocate the detainees to privately-run jails. 

“We did have a plan to be able to bring our inmates back safely into the Pitkin County Jail, and we do have plans and, if the number of inmates we can safely accommodate exceeds what our facility could handle, that we could overflow those to private facilities, for example,” Peacock said. “We did not want to do that. We have a work-release program that is an important diversion program for our jail. We would lose the spaces, which were recently renovated and made up to standard for work release, so we would have to suspend the availability of that program to house our inmates here.”

The Eagle County facility was not included in the scenario-planning, but the opportunity arose and “we’re grateful for that partnership to give us more time to work on this,” Peacock said. 

As of Thursday, the arrangement with Eagle County was fluid: The extent of the agreement is indefinite, and it was not clear how much Pitkin County would be paying Eagle County to house each inmate. Pitkin was paying Garfield just under $61 an inmate.

Buglione said the Sheriff’s Office will be seeking “a long-term relationship with Eagle and an IGA will be put in place,” noting the BOCC approval would be needed. In the event of a Glenwood Canyon closure during the winter, he said long-term inmates would have to stay in Pitkin County.

He said he believes a working relationship with Garfield County remains important. 

“If there’s something broken, I want to mend it,” he said. 

Disagreements between the counties, which can clash politically, can be cyclical, Peacock said.

“What I’m seeing right now,” he said, “is this is being handled according to the agreement, we’re responding appropriately, and, like Michael said, we’ll always seek to mend because we’re going to need each other in the future, whether it’s wildfire, flood, the Glenwood Canyon closing, the workforce that we share, and the needs that we have. We still have a lot to share as one community. And, it’s important for us to continue to work together. And, will we disagree? Of course, that’s why we have different counties — to represent different interests and different constituencies.”

He said there is “sense of urgency” for the county to come up with a long-term plan for the jail, whether it is remodeling the existing one or building a new one. When DiSalvo was in office, particularly during his final term, he had pushed for a new jail partly because of two high-profile incidents — the suicide of an inmate in November 2019 and a report of consensual sex between a male and female inmate in April 2016.

Vallario did not respond to a message left at his office on Thursday. He will still need the Garfield County BOCC’s approval to officially sever the agreement, and the item is first up on the county commissioners 8 a.m. agenda on Monday. But Buglione and Peacock said they were operating as if the termination already was in place.

rcarroll@aspentimes.com

Silt child abuse case headed to possible single preliminary hearing for two defendants

Cases against a Silt man and woman accused of child abuse are headed toward preliminary hearings to determine if enough evidence exists to go to trial.

Kurtis Kumar

Kurtis Kumar, 31, and Desirae Jones, 29, were both before Garfield County District Judge Denise Lynch for separate hearings on Thursday.

The boyfriend and girlfriend were arrested Oct. 22, 2022 on charges of first-degree assault, child abuse and knowingly causing serious bodily injury involving a 2-year-old child who was in their care.

Multiple police agencies, including the Silt Police Department and Garfield County Sheriff’s Office, worked together to locate the couple following reports that they had severely injured the child.

Desirae Jones
Garfield County Detention photo

The couple, along with the child, were found inside a car in the Silt area following a search. Kumar and Jones were immediately arrested, and the child and a sibling were taken into emergency custody.

On Thursday, a preliminary hearing was scheduled for Feb. 24 in the case against Jones, and Kumar’s case could be set for preliminary hearing the same day, since the respective cases involve the same set of witnesses.

That, however, is still to be determined as it was discussed during Kumar’s hearing that his public defender, Jennifer Jones (no relation to the other defendant), is new to the case.

Defendant Jones is being represented separately by private Denver defense attorney Liz Krupa.

Krupa indicated in the Thursday hearing that she would like for Jones’ bond amount and a standing protection order involving her other children (not the victim in the case) to be addressed as well on Feb. 24.

Kumar and Desirae Jones both remain in the Garfield County Jail on $1 million bond each. At a Dec. 1, 2022, hearing Kumar was granted permission by the court to have written and phone communication from jail with two other children not related to the case.

Silt home invasion case also heard

Also before Judge Lynch on Thursday was the Silt home invasion, menacing and kidnapping case against Janvier Pinkard, 37, who has been undergoing mental health evaluations at the Colorado Mental Health Hospital in Pueblo.

Now back in the Garfield County Jail on $107,500 bond, Pinkard had his case continued to Feb. 16. Attorneys in the case shared information that Pinkard has been found to have restored competency to stand trial, but that a sanity evaluation is still pending.

Post Independent interim Managing Editor and senior reporter John Stroud can be reached at jstroud@postindependent.com or at 970-384-9160.