Bond reduction denied for Snowmass man with criminal past
The Aspen Times
A Snowmass Village man with a lengthy local arrest record is being held in the Pitkin County Jail under a $50,000 bond following allegations that he used a social-media platform to intimidate an ex-girlfriend who had a restraining order against him.
Michael A. Phillips, 30, described in arrest records as a landscaper, faces separate felony charges of violating bail-bond conditions and retaliation against a witness or victim. The charges, formally filed by the 9th Judicial District Attorney’s Office on Friday, stemmed from a Snowmass Village Police Department arrest on Nov. 20.
Phillips was arrested by the same law-enforcement agency on Sept. 5 and charged with felony stalking and misdemeanor harassment of the same woman, who now lives out of state. She obtained a protection order to prevent him from contacting her. He gained release from the jail on Sept. 27 after posting a surety bond totaling $26,500: $20,000 in connection with the stalking and harassment charges, and $6,500 related to complaints alleging violation of probation from two felony cases in 2012.
In addition, Phillips faces a charge of felony menacing in Boulder County. District Court records indicate that he has been accused in that county of threatening “several individuals with a baseball bat” in 2013.
During a court proceeding on Monday, in which the newest charges were filed, District Judge Gail Nichols declined to lower the $50,000 cash-only bond amount that was set last week by a different judge.
Public defender Sara Steele argued that the bond amount was too high and inappropriate. She described the latest charges against Phillips as “ridiculous” and suggested that authorities overreacted after her client expressed himself on an Instagram account, a social-media outlet. His writings on the site had nothing to do with his previous cases, Steele said.
“There is no reason for (the alleged victim) to believe she is in danger,” Steele said. “They are reading things … that just don’t exist.”
An affidavit in support of Phillips’ Nov. 20 arrest, written by Snowmass police officer Lara Xaiz, states that on Nov. 15 she received an email from the ex-girlfriend that was upsetting. The alleged victim said he posted “some really disturbing stuff” on his Instagram bio page under the names “felixdajeww” and “firstcrime.”
The officer’s narrative says that Phillips used the account to post photographs of street scenes depicting the city where the ex-girlfriend now resides. He also “hashtagged” the name of the school she attends in many of the photos.
Xaiz said Phillips’ bio page also contained the following threatening terms: “Murder of Potential,” “You Aren’t SAFE,” “(Person’s initials omitted) MUS DIE” and “Kill (victim’s initials omitted).”
The victim told the police officer that she only found Phillips’ Instagram page after opening up a photo from the account “firstcrime,” which she found in her school’s “feed.”
Steele told Nichols that Phillips was not attempting to make contact with the ex-girlfriend. The woman would have had to “proactively found” the Instagram page, which is “very different from (the defendant) attempting to have contact.”
Phillips enjoys poetry and music, and the Instagram bio was his way of expressing himself, Steele said.
But prosecutor Andrea Bryan countered that the “Kill (victim’s initials omitted)” reference constituted a “direct threat toward an individual who as a victim in a stalking case.”
“She is very scared that he is going to carry through on these threats,” Bryan said, adding that Phillips had a history of violence toward women, manipulation, lies and disrespect for the court.
Nichols said told Phillips that he didn’t appear to be a flight risk, given his ties to the community and work record. But she also brought up his criminal record and previous legal issues involving ex-girlfriends.
“You don’t like it when they break up,” she said.
Nichols denied Steele’s request for a bond reduction. Phillips is scheduled to appear in court again on Dec. 15.
Phillips’ string of legal issues in Pitkin County dates back to December 2008, when he was charged with misdemeanor assault and burglary of a building. Prosecutors dropped the assault count, and Phillips received a deferred judgment for a guilty plea to burglary.
In August 2012, he was charged with four felonies on suspicion of cheating a downtown Aspen restaurant and bookkeeper out of thousands of dollars as part of an accounting scheme. Earlier that same year, he was charged with a felony on accusations that he stalked an ex-girlfriend.
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