Clifton headed for 21-day trial in May |

Clifton headed for 21-day trial in May

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. Accused arsonist Robin J. Clifton will face a jury of his peers in May in what could be one of the county’s longest running criminal trials. Clifton’s trial was set for 21 days in District Court in Glenwood Springs Thursday morning.”It’s longer than most because of the amount and nature of the evidence,” said District Attorney Martin Beeson.Most trials in Glenwood Springs District Court run from a few days to a week. Clifton’s trial will begin on May 29, continue on June 4 and then run on weekdays through the end of the month, as well as on July 2 and 3.Clifton is accused of setting four fires on Sept. 5, 2005, which destroyed the Rifle Amoco station and nearly destroyed the Fireside Lanes bowling alley.Clifton also waived his right to a speedy trial Thursday. By law, once a person has entered a plea of not guilty, trial must be set within six months of that date. The May start date exceeds the six month period by 12 days.Questioned by Judge Thomas Ossola if he wanted to waive that right, Clifton said yes.However, Beeson asked Ossola to question Clifton a second time about waiving that right. “I want to make sure if it’s voluntary,” Beeson said. “I want to find out if he feels any pressure to do this.”Appearing somewhat irritated by the request, Ossola said to Clifton, “Are you feeling any coercion?” Clifton answered, “No, your honor.”Ossola then said, “Is this voluntary?””Yes, your honor,” Clifton answered.He appeared in court for his arraignment Thursday, during which he entered a plea of not guilty to 18 criminal charges including arson and sentence-enhancing charges of being a habitual criminal.His criminal history dates back to 1978 and includes charges ranging from robbery to drugs to prison escape.At Clifton’s preliminary hearing in October, Assistant District Attorney Jeff Cheney revealed circumstantial but compelling evidence linking Clifton to the scene of the Amoco fire. According to testimony at that hearing, the four fires were lit over about two hours in the early morning hours of Sept. 5. Witnesses who saw Clifton after the fire have testified that he appeared to have burns on his hands and face.Cheney also showed startling video tape recovered from the Amoco station after the fire that shows a man dressed in black break into the station and spread a liquid around the inside of the garage. It also shows the man igniting a fuse and the inside of the building bursting into flame. The last clip shows the man running away enveloped in flame.Beeson would not comment when asked if the trial could be moved to another location because of pre-trial publicity.Clifton remains in the Garfield County Jail since he has apparently been unable to come up with the $500,000 bond that was set in his case.Contact Donna Gray: 945-8515, ext. 16605dgray@postindependent.comPost Independent, Glenwood Springs Colorado CO

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