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Bowling alley owner worried

RIFLE – Jack Bowles doesn’t believe alleged Rifle arsonist Robin Jay Clifton will show up for court after his release from jail on Saturday evening.Bowles, owner of the Rifle Fireside Lanes, along with his wife, Ava, are just two of the victims of the Sept. 5, 2005, fires that destroyed their bowling alley. An Amoco service station was also burnt to the ground and two other buildings sustained minor damage.Clifton, 46, of Collbran, posted a $210,000 bond on Saturday evening for 13 charges in connection with the fire, along with other charges, including failure to appear. After posting the bond, he walked out of the Garfield County Jail a free man and is not scheduled to appear in court again until July.”He won’t be there,” Bowles said. “They had him – there’s no way he should be out right now.”According to court records, Clifton bonded out through AA Bail Bonds LLC in Montrose. “He would have had to post 15 percent of the bond, which would be $31,500,” said Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario.Bowles says he doesn’t blame the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office or the Rifle Police Department for letting Clifton out – he blames the court system and, more specifically, the judge.”The police were the ones that put him in jail,” Bowles said. “In my opinion, it’s the judge and the courts that are responsible for letting him out. And if anything happens to this place again that is caused by (Clifton), the judge is going to get a bill for this. It’s his monkey now. They set bail for him last time – don’t they learn?”fire victim: see page 2fire victim: from page 1Clifton’s criminal history dates back to 1978 with more than 20 convictions ranging from robbery to drugs to prison escape.Bowles, who had just purchased the business in north Rifle and was in the middle of remodeling it to reopen last fall when the fire occurred, said the damage to his business was $1.2 million, and the fire set him back nine months from his scheduled opening date.”(Clifton) owes me $1.2 million and nine months,” he said. “He can’t pay me back the nine months, but if he pays me $1.2 million, that would appease me.”David Valencia, owner of the Rifle Amoco station, which was also destroyed by the arson fire, was also reportedly surprised that Clifton was able to bond out of jail.Police investigated the case for seven months before arresting Clifton at the Garfield County Courthouse on April 7, 2006, while he was leaving the courtroom on unrelated charges.Bowles says he is nervous and feels that Clifton might strike again.”We’ll probably be on the hit list,” he said. “I think he’ll be back again, and if he does this again, I’m dead – I’m sunk. But I’ll be ready for it when it comes. I won’t be responsible for (Clifton’s) safety.”If convicted, Clifton’s charges carry a maximum penalty ranging from three to 24 years in prison with maximum fines of $100,000 to $750,000. Minimum penalties are six months to two years and $500 to $3,000.His next scheduled court date is July 7.


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