Former Aspen Skiing Co. executive and Aspen city councilman Derek Johnson has been released from state prison and is currently residing at a halfway house, sources said last week.
Johnson, 53, was rejected from a similar program — known as “community corrections” — in Garfield County in February, said Assistant District Attorney Ben Sollars. Though Sollars serves on the Garfield County Community Corrections Board, he said he didn’t recall the exact reasons for the rejection.
“We always saw this case as something that warranted a sentence to the Department of Corrections,” he said, citing the large amount of money and merchandise stolen, the long years of deception, the breach of trust and the impact to the community. “That didn’t change … in a short amount of time (Johnson served behind bars).”
Sollars said he was told by the Department of Corrections that Johnson was in the Adams County Community Corrections program. However, a representative of that program said Thursday that Johnson was not placed there and suggested trying Arapahoe County, which can be confused with Adams County.
Brad Kemper, who runs the Arapahoe County Community Corrections program, said Thursday that Johnson was placed in the Jefferson County Community Corrections program.
Messages left for the Jefferson County program were not returned. Annie Skinner, the spokesperson for the Colorado Department of Corrections, declined to provide information as to where Johnson currently resides.
Phone messages left for Johnson’s lawyer and his wife, Kerri Johnson, also were not returned.
Johnson pleaded guilty in November 2019 to one count of felony theft between $100,000 and $1 million for methodically stealing and selling more than 13,000 pairs of Skico-owned skis valued at $6 million over more than 12 years. Pitkin County District Judge Chris Seldin sentenced him to six years in prison in late January 2020.
Sollars said that inmates who apply for a community corrections program indicate a primary location and a secondary location where they’d like to serve out the rest of their sentence. After the Garfield County rejection in February, he was apparently accepted into the secondary program not long after, said Aspen prosecutor Don Nottingham.
That means Johnson — who served one term on the City Council and ran for Aspen mayor in 2013 — actually served about 13 months in prison. He served most of his sentence at the Sterling Correctional Facility in Sterling.
As a participant in a state community corrections program, Johnson is now living in a halfway house and is allowed to go to work during the day, Nottingham said.
“(The program) is still administered by the Department of Corrections,” Nottingham said. “There’s lots of rules he has to follow (as part of the program). He has to get a job.”
Johnson’s estimated parole eligibility date is July 6, 2022, while his next parole hearing is scheduled for April, according to online Department of Corrections records. He will face three years of parole once released.
A well-behaved Colorado prison inmate earns what is called “good time,” which can reduce the amount of time behind bars to 37.5% of the sentence received, Nottingham said. His acceptance into the community corrections program “would indicate he was well-behaved in prison,” he said.
“Given what I know of him, I’m not surprised he behaved well in prison,” Nottingham said.
Kerri Johnson, 50, pleaded guilty to one count of felony theft in connection with the eBay-based scheme to sell the stolen skis and was sentenced in February 2020 to 90 days in jail and five years of probation.
She initially served 28 days of that sentence — from Feb. 20 to March 19, 2020 — before she was released because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Kerri Johnson returned to jail June 10, 2020, and served another 23 days until July 2, when she was released, according to Pitkin County Jail records. She served a total of 51 days in jail, which means she also received “good time” for her sentence as well.
Under terms of the plea deal, the couple also must pay back $250,000 to Skico. That is amount of the company’s insurance deductible, which it had to pay for the claim filed because of the Johnsons’ actions.
The Johnsons sold more than 13,000 pairs of salvage skis owned by Skico between 2006 and November 2018 that were sold on eBay and went so far as to bill Skico for the boxes in which they shipped the skis to their customers. That equates to three pairs of stolen skis sold every day for 12 years, Nottingham has said.
In the last full year of the scheme — 2017 — the couple reaped $459,000, which was in addition to Johnson’s $116,600 Skico salary.