The FBI is investigating an altercation between former Aspen resident Montgomery Chitty and at least one other inmate at a federal detention facility in Denver.
Chitty, who was convicted in February of cocaine trafficking in the Aspen area, has been held since his arrest and after his trial at the Federal Correctional Institution in Littleton.
It’s unclear the severity of the altercation or when it happened. A source with knowledge of the incident said it involved white supremacists assaulting Chitty because he was helping a black inmate learn how to read.
Ken Deal, chief deputy with the U.S. Marshals Service for the District of Colorado, said Wednesday that he didn’t have information about what happened or who instigated the incident.
“I can confirm there was an altercation,” he said, adding that he was awaiting a report from the U.S. Bureau of Prisons (BOP).
BOP runs the facility, but the marshals service is in charge of Chitty because he has not yet been sentenced. Marshals are charged with the “safe and secure confinement, care and transportation of federal prisoners from the time of court-ordered custody until either their acquittal or their conviction and delivery to the Federal Bureau of Prisons to serve their sentence,” the agency’s website says.
Chitty on Tuesday had his May 28 sentencing date continued until July after he petitioned the court for the extension. He wrote in a court motion that he had not yet received his presentence report.
It’s standard practice for the FBI and the U.S. attorney’s office to investigate crimes involving inmates, Deal said.
“All assault-type, inmate-on-inmate cases are reviewed by the FBI,” he said. “It may not have risen to the level of being a prosecutorial event. They look at the facts, and whether to accept or decline prosecuting it is up to the U.S. attorney’s office.”
Jeff Dorschner, spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Denver, said no charges have been filed.
“That’s about as much as I can say,” he said.
Federal prosecutor Michele Korver did not object to the continuance of the sentencing, which Chitty filed May 2. Chitty’s continuance motion was apparently not related to the incident that Dorschner’s office and the FBI is investigating.
An attorney with the U.S. Justice Department on Tuesday rejected an Aspen Daily News request for details about the incident that was filed under the Freedom of Information Act.
William E. Bordley, an associate general counsel in the Justice Department, cited an exemption that allows an agency to withhold records or information compiled for law enforcement purposes “to the extent that their production could reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.”
A U.S. Marshals Service spokeswoman said her agency has a similar stance, in that it “does not disclose information related to individual prisoners to protect their privacy, safety and security.”
At a jury trial in February, Chitty, 61, was found guilty and remanded back to the Littleton facility. He has been held there since shortly after he was arrested in February 2012 at his home in Florida, part of several arrests by U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents who investigated a California-to-Aspen cocaine ring.
Chitty faces at least 20 years in prison because of a 1990 felony conviction related to marijuana smuggling, according to court papers filed in his recent case.
At the trial, federal prosecutors put on the stand multiple witnesses — three of whom were rewarded with either immunity, a sentence of time served or reduced prison time — who said they either sold or bought cocaine from Chitty over several years. Prosecutors also played a wire-tapped phone conversation between Chitty and a Los Angeles drug dealer that they said involved cocaine sales.
He is now scheduled to be sentenced July 25.