Accused arsonist advised of charges
Post Independent Staff
Robin Jay Clifton stood out from the rest of the Garfield County jail inmates at the group advisement hearing Monday.
Clifton, who is charged with allegedly starting four arson fires in Rifle on Labor Day, Sept. 5, 2005, wore a red jump suit while the other defendants were in stripes.
“Red signifies that he’s in maximum security,” said Commander Scott Dawson at the jail.
Clifton, 46, is set apart from other inmates because of his criminal history and the severity of the charges he faces now.
Clifton’s criminal history dates back to 1978 and includes more than 20 charges ranging from robbery to drugs to prison escape.
Combined Court Magistrate Ruben Hernandez read two sets of charges to Clifton Monday.
The first set included three counts of aggravated motor vehicle theft, theft of $500-$1,500 and indecent exposure.
The second set of charges relate to the Labor Day arson fires and included four counts of first-degree arson, level three felonies that could carry sentences as long as 24 years each and as much as $750,000 in fines each.
Clifton is also charged with one count of felony three burglary, two counts of felony four burglary, two counts of felony three criminal mischief, two counts of felony four criminal mischief, felony five criminal intent to manslaughter and tampering with physical evidence, a misdemeanor.
Those charges carry maximum penalties ranging from three to 24 years in prison with maximum fines between $100,000 and $750,000. Minimums range from six months to two years and $500-$3,000.
After reading the first set of five charges and the second set of 13, Hernandez asked Clifton if he understood and if he had any questions.
Standing stoically in the jury box, wearing the red jump suit and cuffs on his wrists, Clifton replied.
“It’s kind of hard to keep track of all of that,” Clifton said.
“And it scares little kids,” Hernandez said, closing the file in front of him.
Clifton is accused of setting four fires in Rifle on Sept. 5, 2005, in the early morning hours. One destroyed an Amoco service station, while a second left the Rifle Fireside Lanes bowling alley badly damaged. Two other fires, one at a Meadow Creek Townhomes and another at Mi Hacienda restaurant, didn’t take, and only minor damage was reported.
Assistant District Attorney Scott Turner urged Hernandez to leave the $100,000 bond for the second set of charges and the $10,000 bond for the first set in place. He noted that Clifton has a long and sordid criminal background and has failed to appear in court before.
“This is all kind of boggling,” Clifton said to the magistrate. “That kind of bondage is way out of me and my family’s range.”
He told the court that he needs to be released from jail so that he can work and pay for a lawyer. He has contacted Arnold Mordkin, a Snowmass attorney, as possible representation.
Clifton didn’t have legal representation at the advisement.
Mordkin said he has not yet agreed to take Clifton’s case, though he has looked at it.
“It’s very early,” Mordkin said. “The material I saw was not very strong (against Clifton), but I haven’t seen everything. … If the money can be obtained, I would be happy to represent him.”
Clifton said at the advisement that he will apply for a public defender.
“If I can’t work, I can’t have (Mordkin),” Clifton said.
Bond was not reduced. Clifton’s total bond for both sets of charges is $110,000.
Clifton will return to court on April 19 for arraignment.
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