El Jebel resident also gets community corrections in separate case

An El Jebel man who nearly burned down a restaurant in his quest for a drunken snack was sentenced Monday to three years of community corrections for an unrelated offense near Carbondale.

The sentence for Khory Gagner, 22, comes after he pleaded guilty on March 21 to a felony trespassing charge stemming from an auto-break-in incident on Thompson Creek Road in 2009.

His sentence will be concurrent with a four-year community corrections term handed down May 25 in Eagle County District Court for his damaging late-night jaunt in November at the Fine Line Bar and Grill.

“I made a mistake,” Gagner told Judge Henry Nieto.

Nieto, who has been a judge for 33 years, including on the Colorado Court of Appeals, was less than sympathetic.

“Looking at the pre-sentence report, it appears you made a lot of mistakes,” said Nieto, who was filling in for District Judge Gail Nichols.

One of them undoubtedly was his alcohol consumption and subsequent behavior Nov. 30. He told an Eagle County deputy that from 8 p.m. to 12 a.m., he downed two 20-ounce bottles of Jagermeister and 16 beers.

Hungry, he rode his aunt’s bike to the El Jebel City Market, which was closed, as was the nearby Wendy’s. The deputy’s report says Gagner noticed lights outside the Fine Line, which he was about to cross.

He denied forcing his way inside the restaurant and bar, saying the back door was open. But business co-owner Amanda Levy said she arrived to find broken glass.

Inside, Gagner said he made nachos and quesadillas using a stove and oven and helped himself to two tap beers and a few more shots of Jagermeister, along with tequila.

“Defendant Gagner described himself as becoming ill and vomiting in the bathroom adjacent to the bar on multiple occasions,” the report says. “Upon rediscovering an appetite, he reportedly consumed the nachos and quesadillas.”

At some point, bags of tortilla chips atop the stove caught fire, triggering a fire-suppression system that sucked oxygen out of the area. Resetting the system cost $1,000, court documents say.

Gagner admitted to disabling surveillance cameras, which caused $500 in damage, and dragging a safe outside and leaving it by the back door.

“He denied any attempt to gain access into this safe — [saying] ‘I just forgot about it,’” the deputy wrote.

But the owners said a bank bag with $4,850 was missing when they arrived the next morning.

After watching the bar’s TV for a couple of hours, Gagner returned to his aunt’s home. He was caught the next day by an employee of the property management company that runs the El Jebel Plaza where the Fine Line is located.

The employee, while looking over tape from the night of the incident, happened to see Gagner, in real-time video, in the pedestrian tunnel under Highway 82. Gagner, who was trying to hitch a ride, ran away but was felled by baggy clothing and caught.

The deputy’s report says he had iPod with him that the Fine Line owners identified as theirs.

He pleaded guilty to a felony burglary count, and the other charges — felony and misdemeanor theft, felony criminal mischief, felony bail-bond violation and misdemeanor arson — were dropped.

For the crime in Pitkin County, he pleaded guilty to felony trespass of an automobile with the intent to commit a crime. He was arrested after partygoers on Thompson Creek Road said he harassed them and stole items from cars. Misdemeanor charges of assault and criminal mischief were dismissed, according to court records.

Gagner’s attorney, public defender Jim Conway, told the judge that the San Luis Valley Community Corrections program will serve his client well.

Gagner has a “very serious alcohol problem,” Conway said. “When he drinks he makes very irresponsible decisions.”

The community corrections program will involve 45 days of alcohol treatment; placement in a halfway house and finding a job; and continuing addiction counseling.

“This will give him a jump start so he can lead a productive life,” Conway said.

Nieto told Gagner not to blow his chance “or you’ll end up in the penitentiary. I don’t think you’re going to like that.”

During his long career, the judge said he has put many more people in prison for being stupid than evil.

“But if you don’t change you’re going to wind up in prison because that’s the way the system works,” Nieto said. “You appear to be bright. But you’re the only one who can fix it.”

chad@aspendailynews.com