Aspen teen makes first court appearance for marijuana arrest
An Aspen High School student Tuesday waived advisement of four charges connected to his Feb. 6 arrest near the campus that was video recorded by onlookers and led to his suspension.
The 16-year-old defendant appeared in juvenile court before Pitkin County District Judge Gail Nichols. He was joined by his sister and attorney Ryan Kalamaya. The teen lives with his mother, who could not attend because she was working.
The student told the judge he has not been attending school because he is suspended.
“Well, they put me on a week of suspension and they said they could either shorten it or lengthen it,” he said.
He returned to class on Tuesday, Kalamaya said.
The judge set the student’s next court appearance for March 2. Pre-trial supervision of the student is not necessary, said Bruce Benjamin, juvenile investigator for the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office.
“I’ve known the family for quite a few years and this man is not a chronic problem; therefore, I think he’ll be with his family and he has a very responsible mother who will keep him on the straight and narrow,” Benjamin told the judge.
On Friday, Pitkin County prosecutor Andrea Bryan filed four charges against the student: two misdemeanor counts of resisting arrest and obstructing a police officer and two petty charges of underage possession of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia.
The incident was thrust into the public arena in large part because of students who made multiple cellphone video recordings of the arrest, which have been widely circulated on news and social-media sites.
Officer Adam Loudon initially approached the student, who was at the bus shelter off of Maroon Creek Road next to the school campus and across from the Aspen Recreation Center, because he believed he was rolling a marijuana joint, police said.
The student questioned the officer’s presence and was arrested, but not before Loudon called for back-up and was aided by an off-duty police officer and firefighter.
Kalamaya contends the student wasn’t rolling a joint and police didn’t find marijuana until after the takedown arrest. Pot and a pipe were found in the student’s backpack, Kalamaya said. The student did not have marijuana at the school, Kalamaya claimed.
The Aspen Police Department has maintained that tactics in the arrest were proper because the officer had probable cause and the student was “combative.”
Kalamaya said that the student, as well as another one who shot a video of the incident, have apologized to the Aspen police.
“I do not endorse anyone resisting arrest or obstructing a law enforcement officer,” he said in an email to The Aspen Times. “I also would never suggest that anyone be disrespectful or rude to a peace officer. They are putting their lives at risk every day to keep us safe.”
He added: “With that in mind, the Constitution exists for a reason. The Fifth Amendment protects citizens from being forced to incriminate themselves. According to my client and the two other witnesses at the scene, my client denied rolling a joint and showed the officer his hands. He was then asked to put his hands behind his back with no explanation or advisement of his Miranda rights.”
Kalamaya said he is still awaiting the police reports from the incident, noting “the situation could have been handled better by all those involved.”
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