Several defendants on Monday’s Pitkin County District Court docket saw their bonds significantly reduced, primarily because of public health concerns surrounding COVID-19.
Public defender Alex Haynes appeared by phone Monday, during which time he reiterated with nearly every one of his cases that the novel coronavirus has created extenuating circumstances. His arguments were successful most of the time, though a few defendants that the court felt had demonstrated a pattern remained in custody.
“This public health emergency that we’re going through, I don’t think I need to belabor this argument other than to say when someone is in custody, it becomes quite impossible to follow the guidelines that we’re being asked by the state,” said regarding one case.
Even for a failure to appear, Judge Chris Seldin opted for a personal recognizance bond, which does not require any cash.
“I’m inclined in this instance, given the overall circumstances we face, to set another PR bond with a return date somewhat out in the future,” he said. “We are, like everyone else, having to make adjustments.”
But COVID-19 didn’t become a get-out-of-jail-free card for higher-risk defendants. In fact, while Hayden May, 26, represented the lowest threat according to a report from pretrial services, according to Haynes, Deputy District Attorney Don Nottingham successfully persuaded the judge to maintain bond at $30,000.
“He has two prior felonies; one of those felonies is a crime similar to those which he is charged with, where he robbed a dispensary here in Aspen,” Nottingham said of May, who in 2015 robbed a dispensary using a hammer as a potential weapon. Earlier this month, he was arrested for allegedly robbing a Basalt dispensary, this time at knifepoint.
While a subpoena has been issued from the defense in May’s most recent case and discussion of a “potential alibi” took place, Haynes chose not to delve into the specifics of that alibi on the record Monday.
“It’s the nature of the allegations that exist to support that lead the court to conclude that a modification in bond is not appropriate at this time,” Seldin said. “The record that’s been presented to me at this point, which of course is one sided, the court denies the bond reduction at this time.”
Brandon Tidrow, 32, was another defendant whom Seldin opted to keep in custody — for the time being. On Saturday afternoon, Aspen police arrested Tidrow after receiving reports that he was “spitting on rails, rubbing and putting his hands in his pants and then wiping his hands on other people and the railing by the Gondola Plaza” and telling people “he had the coronavirus and that he was deaf,” according to an APD arrest affidavit.
Tidrow’s mental health became a point of question in court. An additional concern that arose among the COVID-19 outbreak is that, according to a Pitkin County sheriff’s deputy working in the courtroom Monday, Mind Springs Health’s regularly scheduled programs at the jail have been suspended, although the nonprofit continues its one-on-one inmate services.
Seldin decided to set bond for the new charges at $25,000, but wrote an order to pretrial services and probation to coordinate an effort to create a concrete safety plan for Tidrow that would allow the judge to feel confident in reducing his bond.
“What I want to do is see if there can be somebody that can help you reach out to the resources that exist for you, including the [Department of Veterans Affairs],” Seldin said. “I’ve got to see those building blocks in place before I release you.”
Tidrow had referenced his experience as a Marine a few times when addressing the court directly.
“As a United States Marine, we were trained to laugh in the face of death and fear, and I laugh back, usually, and that’s all I have to say, really,” he said. “I honestly just want to get back to work. I have what you’d consider a busy mind. ... I need something to do. As a Marine, that kind of just topples on top of each other to where I need something to do that’s positive.”
His alleged antics Saturday resulted in an Aspen police officer going to Aspen Valley Hospital after Tidrow allegedly spit in her face before being arrested at Carl’s Pharmacy. The saliva entered her eye, according to the affidavit.
“[The officer] was visibly upset and scared because she had just been sneezed/spit on,” it reads.
One case that was dismissed outright Monday was that of Zachary Lutz, the 18-year-old visitor who on New Year’s Eve was arrested at Escobar in response to a call of alleged sexual assault.
“The District Attorney’s office recognizes that sexual assault is one of the most serious crimes we prosecute,” Nottingham said. “That being said, the investigation showed that any contact between the two parties involved was consensual. The evidence shows that no sexual assault occured.”