Kerri Johnson, who is serving time for role in Aspen embezzlement case, released from jail over COVID-19 concerns
For those who don’t think the tentacles of the unfolding coronavirus pandemic touch every aspect of life, consider that Thursday they reached the Derek Johnson theft case.
The former Aspen Skiing Co. executive was sentenced in January to six years in prison for pleading guilty to stealing more than 13,000 pairs of skis from his employer and selling them for about $3 million over a 15-year period. His wife, Kerri Johnson, also pleaded guilty to felony theft and was sentenced in February to 90 days in the Pitkin County Jail and five years of probation.
But on Thursday, District Judge Chris Seldin released Kerri Johnson from jail more than two months early because of virus-related concerns, according to court documents.
And while she asked the judge to reduce her 90-day sentence to the 28 days she’s served so far, and release her permanently from jail to begin her probation sentence, Seldin said no.
“The Court declines to modify the length of the jail sentence,” the judge’s order Thursday states. “However, the Court will permit Ms. Johnson to serve the jail sentence non-consecutively.
“This course of action is consistent with requests from the jail to manage its population in light of the current public health crisis.”
That means Kerri Johnson must report back to the jail to serve the remaining 62 days of her sentence in “49 days, or such other time that may be authorized by the Court,” Seldin wrote.
In a motion filed March 14 by her lawyer, Johnson cited the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the area school cancellation affecting her two school-aged children now being cared for by her 76-year-old mother as reasons for the jail sentence reconsideration request, according to the motion.
“With both Mr. and Mrs. Johnson in custody and the national emergency related to spreading coronavirus, the Johnson family is experiencing significant stress and worry,” the motion states. “At this point, the harm and risk posed by Ms. Johnson remaining in jail for one more month during this pandemic seem to outweigh the Court’s original reasons for imposing a 90-day jail sentence.”
The motion states that Johnson has had no disciplinary issues in jail and expects to receive the maximum amount of so-called “good time,” which allows an inmate to subtract time behind bars in exchange for good behavior.
“This means that Ms. Johnson will likely serve 54 days of jail,” according to the motion. “As such, to date, she has likely served approximately half of her jail sentence.”
Pitkin County Sheriff Joe DiSalvo said one other jail inmate has been allowed out on furlough in recent days because of the encroaching virus. That inmate was in the work release program, meaning he left jail during the day to work and returned at night to sleep, and officials didn’t want him continually re-entering the jail and possibly infecting other inmates, DiSalvo said.
The inmate also will have to serve the rest of his sentence at a later date.
Kerri Johnson is the only full-time inmate released because of the coronavirus, he said.
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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.