A part-time Brush Creek resident on Monday received a two-year probation sentence and a deferred judgment on a felony charge of attempted arson following a plea agreement that stems from actions he took last year following a hunter’s killing of a bear on a neighboring ranch.
In addition to completing the supervised probation term, Thomas Andersen, 69, a businessman who also lives in Miami, must pay a $2,500 fine and perform 60 hours of community service, the agreement approved by Pitkin County District Judge Chris Seldin stipulates.
Monday’s sentencing hearing related not only to the deferred felony charge, but also a straight guilty plea to misdemeanor disorderly conduct. Andersen, according to a sheriff’s office report, doused the ranch’s property with gasoline and berated the hunter’s young sons with excessive profanities following the Sept. 7 legal killing of the bear.
The report states that the caretaker of the ranch on which the bear was shot said he had given the hunter permission. The hunter had a bear license and deputies learned from Colorado Parks and Wildlife that the shooting was legal.
In court prior to Seldin’s ruling, Andersen’s wife read a statement that spoke of her husband’s strong work ethic and love of animals. She asked the judge to consider his age and the limits on his time whenever he is together with his family in the Roaring Fork Valley.
“I want you to know that Tom respects the law,” she said. “Please be merciful for my sake and the sake of my children.”
Following that statement, Deputy District Attorney Don Nottingham suggested that while the Aspen area is known as a liberal community where animals are treasured and protected, the Western Slope also has residents with libertarian sentiments and hunting privileges. He said he found the hunter to be a working-class citizen and as responsible as a hunter can be, with deep respect for animals. The bear was killed for its meat.
While there can be debate about whether bear hunting “should be a thing,” Nottingham said, “What can’t be debated is the incorrectness of Mr. Andersen’s response.”
Andersen made no comment during the hearing, but his attorney, Joseph Saint-Veltri of Denver, said that Andersen and his family had been enjoying the bear on their property on the day of the killing. The bear crossed over to the neighboring ranch and was subsequently killed later in the day, “a startling incident,” he said.
Andersen concedes that he shouldn’t have used profane language in front of the hunter’s kids, Saint-Veltri said. His true focus was on the hunter and his actions.
“Was his conduct appropriate? Not entirely and he has conceded that,” the defense attorney said.
Like Nottingham, Seldin pointed out that the Roaring Fork Valley and the Western Slope includes residents “from many walks of life.” While the upper valley is known for pastimes like hiking and skiing, other areas are rooted in activities like hunting and fishing.
“Go a little bit down valley from here and you’ll see those influences,” the judge said.
Seldin said the hunter’s children should not have been exposed to Andersen’s “volcanic anger.” Such behavior in front of children made the defendant “worthy of jail time.”
“And I’m sure you regret it,” the judge said.
But in the end, Andersen received no jail time. As part of his probation, he will be required to complete an anger-management evaluation, Seldin said as he listed the sentencing terms.