There is enough evidence that an Aspen man allegedly swiped a $40,000 bracelet and then reported it as stolen for him to stand trial, a judge ruled Monday.
William Evans, 77, maintains that someone took the bracelet, which belonged to an Aspen woman, from the back of his rental car as he was eating lunch near the Aspen City Market. Evans, who had been given the bracelet so he could have it appraised, has pleaded not guilty to felony theft.
Lawson Wills, Evans’ attorney, argued that an Aspen police officer was “hell-bent” on getting his client to admit that he took the gold, diamond-studded Hammerman bracelet.
“This case is absolutely chockfull of unreasonable conclusions,” Wills said.
At the end of a nearly four-hour preliminary hearing, he told Judge Gail Nichols of Pitkin County District Court that there is simply no evidence against Evans.
The alleged victim, though, testified that when she gave Evans the bracelet, he said, “Wouldn’t it be funny if as I was driving out to California to have it appraised, if I stopped in Green River [Utah] and someone stole it out of my car?
“And I said, ‘No, that wouldn’t be funny,’” the woman said.
According to court testimony, Evans has worked off and on in the jewelry business in Aspen for years.
Aspen police Sgt. Dan Davis testified that he responded when Evans called 911 to report the alleged theft on Feb. 29, 2012.
He initially told Davis that the bracelet belonged to him, then denied ever saying that when he was interviewed a few hours later, the officer wrote in his report.
Evans also changed his account of his actions after Davis told him that the grocery store parking lot is watched by a surveillance camera, the officer testified.
Evans grew nervous when the camera was mentioned and didn’t appear to want to watch the store’s footage to see if it caught the culprit, something most victims are eager to do, Davis said.
Evans then allegedly said that he had also been at Carl’s and the post office before parking at City Market and having lunch at Jour de Fete, and that he wasn’t sure where the bracelet might have been stolen.
But Wills asked Davis about some of the statements the officer made when he interviewed Evans.
Davis’ report says that Evans looked like he was “about to crap his pants” when the surveillance camera was mentioned.
“Can you tell when someone’s crapped their pants?” Wills asked.
“Sometimes, yes,” Davis said, adding that it was a description of the expression on Evans’ face.
Davis also acknowledged telling Evans that he could face charges of false reporting and fraud, that Evans’ name would be “mud in this town” and that he was going to send him to prison.
“I was trying to elicit any information” about whether he had committed the crime, Davis said, adding that he also investigated whether someone else had actually stolen the bracelet.
Deputy District Attorney Andrea Bryan noted that Evans had insured the woman’s jewelry for $15,000 three days before he reported its disappearance. Evans never filed an insurance claim after the theft, likely because he knew he’d be committing fraud, Bryan said.
The surveillance footage, portions of which were showed in court Monday, also didn’t match up with Evans’ version of his actions. He told Davis that he walked to his vehicle, noticed the box containing the bracelet was missing, walked back to Jour de Fete and called 911. The footage shows him walking into City Market after calling police.
Wills said the camera scans different areas of the parking lot, starting at the steps to Jour de Fete and shifting rightward before returning to the steps view every 40 seconds or so. That left plenty of time for someone to enter Evans’ car and boost the bracelet without being spotted on the camera, he argued.
Bryan pointed out that if Evans’ version of his actions were true, he would have had to walk to three places in 26 seconds, which is unlikely.
While the camera is on the section where Evans parked, no one can be seen near his vehicle while he was inside, and Davis also testified that he didn’t see anyone on the footage looking into car windows.
Nicholas cited the fact that Evans didn’t appear to search at all around or in the car after he said he noticed the bracelet was gone.
“It would’ve been seen on the tape,” she said. “It would’ve showed him looking for it, looking on the floor of the car. You don’t just take a quick look and then walk away.
“All he said is, ‘I came back and it was missing.’”
Nichols also said it was “very peculiar” that Evans initially didn’t say the item belonged to someone else. But she noted the defense has plenty of arguments that could make it difficult to convince a jury beyond a reasonable doubt that he committed the crime.
Evans’ four-day jury trial is set to begin Aug. 12.