A man arrested for selling ecstasy at an Aspen concert venue on Christmas Eve in 2011 was sentenced on Monday to three years of probation and 48 hours of community service.
The sentencing of Max Puder, 18, a former Aspen resident who is attending college in Minnesota, “was a long time in coming,” said prosecutor Arnold Mordkin. Puder pleaded guilty in August to possession of more than 4 grams of the drug in a deal that saw two felony drug-distribution counts dismissed.
His case led to the mistaken identity and arrest of Thomas Simmons, 22, of Aspen, on drug charges. Police originally arrested Simmons for tampering with evidence, believing he was seen on Belly Up surveillance footage trying to hide baggies of ecstasy Puder dropped during his arrest.
Simmons was arrested Feb. 4 at the club, and a subsequent search allegedly turned up 16 baggies of ecstasy and cocaine on his person. That led to another warrant that police used to allegedly uncover multiple ounces of ecstasy and cocaine, along with LSD and psilocybin mushrooms, from his Aspen apartment.
However, police later determined the man on the video was not Simmons, and Mordkin soon dropped the tampering charge against him. Two other men have pleaded guilty after they were arrested for their roles in trying to hide the drugs Puder dropped. The drug counts against Simmons remain pending.
Puder is doing well in college, his attorney, Richard Cummins of Aspen, told Judge Gail Nichols of Pitkin County District Court.
“I think he understands he has a chance here to correct what were some significant misdeeds and end up with a clean record,” Cummins said.
Asked by Nichols how he is doing in college, Puder said he passed three out of the four classes he took last semester, or 75 percent of his caseload, which he said constitutes a “C” mark.
That drew a smile from Nichols, who said that she’s always known Puder is smart.
“That’s never been the problem,” she said. “I have a lot of hope for you.”
Nichols also ordered him to pay a $2,000 drug surcharge.
• In other court news, Nichols granted a nearly two-month-long continuance for a part-time Aspen resident who faces 15 child pornography-related counts.
Aedan Teague Hopper, 20, was represented by Cummins, who waived advisement during the brief hearing. Hopper is charged with multiple felonies of sexual exploitation of children, including counts that accuse him of inducing girls to provide nude pictures and of selling or publishing the images using his computer.
Nichols said the lengthy continuance is warranted in the case. She ordered Hopper, who was attending college in Boulder when he was arrested last month, to appear again on March 4 and to continue to honor the mandatory protection order in the case.
• A former Aspen man is on track to be tried for allegedly violating his bond conditions after Nichols denied his motion to dismiss.
Taylor Colton, 42, of Salt Lake City, would face a mandatory minimum of one year in prison if found guilty.
He was sentenced to two years of probation in December after he pleaded guilty last spring to felony trespassing. Colton was to be sentenced in July but missed the date. He told authorities that he was involuntarily detained in a Salt Lake City psychiatric ward.
His attorney, public defender Laura Koenig, had argued that the bond-violation case should be dismissed because an action such as failing to appear for a court date must be voluntary.
Nichols earlier ruled that Colton made a choice to go to a Utah hospital, where he was later admitted to its psychiatric ward, instead of returning to Aspen for his sentencing hearing.
The district attorney’s office, which believes Colton is faking a mental illness, has the authority to prosecute such cases, Nichols said.
Medical records “clearly don’t support” Mordkin’s notion that Colton is faking his mental-health issues, she said.
• A Front Range woman who stole more than $30,000 worth of items out of purses in a hallway outside an Aspen yoga studio in August — and who was quickly arrested after police used GPS technology on a stolen phone to locate her — received two years of probation.
Sedira Steinkirchner, 37, of Longmont, was represented by attorney Kathy Goudy, who showed Nichols a photo of Steinkirchner’s 7-year-old daughter. Raising the child is Steinkirchner’s main focus, Goudy said in requesting probation.
Steinkirchner suffers from a traumatic brain injury and is unable to work, Nichols was told. She pleaded guilty in August to a felony theft charge.
Nichols said she appreciated the photo and it’s clear that raising the girl is something “you’re really proud of.” Her conduct when she was arrested — a police officer said she returned all of the items without protest — showed that there was no long-term intent to keep the items, which included jewelry, Nichols said.
One of the items taken was an iPhone with the Find My iPhone application, which allows users to log on to any computer to see the location of the device, using GPS technology. The phone was tracked to Cooper Avenue and Mill Street, where Steinkirchner was arrested.