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Pedestrian hit by a car in Avon, taken to hospital

A male driving an SUV ran into a female pedestrian Tuesday afternoon at the Avon intersection of East Hurd Lane and Avon Road. The injured woman was conscious when emergency personnel arrived on scene, according to Avon Police Chief Greg Daly, and left in an ambulance.

The male driver of the vehicle cooperated with police when they arrived on the scene and was released. Charges are pending.

Daly said the driver was heading westbound on East Hurd Lane and came to a full stop at the intersection and looked left before pulling out. The driver told police he didn’t see the pedestrian to his right.

“He hit the pedestrian and she went down to the ground,” Daly said.

A passerby who happens to be a nurse came to the pedestrian’s aid to provide emergency care and get the injured woman into a recovery position, Daly said. Another person with medical training who was driving by also stopped to help.

Daly said the department is currently investigating the accident by taking photos and measurements of the accident scene and talking to witnesses before making a decision on charges.

This story will be updated as more details become available.

Death of Breckenridge man ruled a homicide

BRECKENRIDGE — The death of 29-year-old Brendan Rye, who died following a fight in Breckenridge late last year, has been ruled a homicide by strangulation.

At about 9:45 p.m. Nov. 6, officers with the Breckenridge Police Department responded to a report of gunshots in the 1000 block of Grandview Drive. On scene, officers discovered two men with serious injuries, including Rye, a recent Florida transplant who later died at St. Anthony Hospital in Lakewood.

The other man, 35-year-old Miles Tovar, was shot in the right thigh. He was transported to St. Anthony Summit Medical Center in Frisco and was released the next day.

The altercation between roommates apparently began after a night of drinking, according to the Summit County Coroner’s report of the incident. In the report, Tovar told officials he was standing outside the doorway of the master bedroom at the residence and that Rye was inside the bedroom when a physical altercation started. The origin of the fight isn’t made clear in the report.

Tovar continued to tell officials that he heard a “loud bang,” felt pain in his leg and noticed that it got wet. He said he had Rye in a headlock and that he heard another bang as the two wrestled to the ground. Tovar said he continued to hold Rye on the floor until he was no longer moving.

According to the report, Tovar said he called for their other roommate to come in and help. When he came into the room, Rye was unconscious and not breathing. The other roommate called 911 and began CPR.

Emergency medical responders arrived on scene shortly thereafter. Rye was transported via Flight for Life to Lakewood, where he was pronounced dead at about 6 a.m. Nov. 7.

The manner of death was classified as a homicide, and the cause of death was manual strangulation, according to the coroner’s report.

In the report, Tovar maintained the strangulation of Rye was in self-defense.

No arrests have been made in the case, according to the Breckenridge Police Department. In an email exchange with the Summit Daily News, Breckenridge Chief Jim Baird said investigators still are waiting on lab analysis of some evidentiary items before things move forward.

Baird also noted that Tovar has been cooperating in the investigation, and he said he anticipates the investigation will be complete in the next 30-60 days. 

Similarly, Fifth Judicial District Attorney Bruce Brown said he’s pleased with how the complicated investigation has unfolded so far and urged community members to show patience as officials continue to work through details.

“I’m very satisfied in terms of the dedication that’s been shown by law enforcement in this case,” Brown said. “They’re doing everything possible in order to reconcile the information with a clear understanding of what transpired inside the house. …

“In order to charge anybody with a crime, we have to have a sense of certainty in terms of probable cause that a crime was committed. We are continuing to consider every factual possibility and develop every conclusion that the evidence will reveal. … This clearly was a death by a violent act. We don’t have a lot of those in Summit County, thankfully. But we take every person’s unnatural passing extraordinarily seriously. There’s no other type of crime that’s a higher priority.”

A history of arrests

Tovar has a history of criminal activity in the area. In 2017, he pleaded guilty to driving under the influence along with a misdemeanor resisting arrest charge after becoming confrontational while being escorted out of a Silverthorne bar.

In 2018, Tovar pleaded guilty to harassment following an altercation at a bar in Keystone. Later that year, he also pleaded guilty to charges of resisting arrest and violating a protection order after he again caused a scene at another Keystone bar and later tried to flee and fight with police.

Last year, Tovar pleaded guilty to obstructing government operations after becoming uncooperative when officers discovered him impaired on Main Street in Breckenridge and tried to take him to the hospital due to his level of intoxication. All of Tovar’s prior convictions in the area were misdemeanors.

Tovar is also charged with misdemeanor counts of violation of a protection order and resisting arrest from an incident Nov. 2 — four days before the fight with Rye — after allegedly getting kicked out of a Breckenridge bar and acting aggressively toward police officers. The case is yet to be adjudicated, and Tovar is set for an arraignment hearing Feb. 5.

Why doesn’t Colorado have laws for ice and snow removal on your car?

When it comes to removing ice and snow from a vehicle before getting on the road, Colorado has little to no laws on the books. 

“There is not a specific Colorado law that prohibits driving down the road with a snow- or ice-covered vehicle,” Colorado State Patrol Sgt. Blake White said. “It could end up creating a civil liability if your failure to clear your vehicle results in damage or injury to someone else.”

Where the law could also apply is if snow or ice obstructs the driver’s vision through the vehicle’s required glass.

According to White, drivers often fail to clear their windshield, hood or other windows of snow and ice, which can lead to serious safety hazards. 

“The snow can blow and obstruct other drivers from seeing clearly or can come off in a large damaging sheet of ice and strike another vehicle,” White said. 

Subsequently, Colorado State Patrol highly recommends that drivers remove snow from their entire vehicle in order to prevent it from being a hazard to themselves or others.

Locally, Lt. Bill Kimminau said the Glenwood Springs Police department had received at least one complaint this winter of vehicles with too much snow on their roofs driving on the city’s streets.

However, unless that snow or ice obstructs the driver’s vision or prohibits the vehicle’s lights or license plate from being seen, law enforcement has limited tools at its disposal. 

According to Kimminau, 12 wrecks occurred in the area Friday during the day. 

“They were scattered all over town.” Kimminau said. “Side streets, parking lots, Grand [Avenue]…I know it was really slick in the morning.”

In addition to clearing vehicles of ice and snow before getting on the roadways, White also emphasized a basic winter driving principle – slowing down.    

“Let’s get everybody home safe at the end of the day,” Diane Reynolds, Take A Minute campaign member, said.

Take A Minute is a local grassroots campaign, which grew out of Imagine Glenwood’s ongoing mission to enhance neighborhoods by promoting pedestrian, cyclist and driver safety. 

The campaign’s name derives from the fact that the time saved by driving 10 miles per hour over the 25 mph speed limit through Glenwood’s core evidently amounts to exactly that – one minute.

“Obeying community speeds are really critical to Glenwood’s long term wellbeing,” Reynolds said. 

“In winter weather drivers must plan on it taking longer to reach their destinations,” White said. “Slow down, give yourself more room and don’t drive distracted.”

According to Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) data, Garfield County experienced eight fatal crashes which took the lives of 10 people last year.

Rifle Police investigating crash that killed pedestrian

Rifle police are investigating a one-vehicle crash that killed a pedestrian Wednesday morning on U.S. Highway 6.

According to Rifle Police Chief Tommy Klein, Garfield County 911 received a call around 7:20 a.m. Wednesday about a crash on Highway 6 between milemarker 93 and 94.

Rifle Police officers responded along with Colorado River Fire Rescue.

“Officers arrived first. They located a male lying in the roadway in the westbound lane of Highway 6. There were several people at the scene when the officers arrived,” Klein said.

“The officer provided life-saving measures as well as the ambulance crew when they arrived. However, those efforts failed and unfortunately, the male died at the scene.”

The Coroner’s office responded to the scene and the name of the victim is being withheld until next of kin can be notified.

Klein said from the preliminary investigation it appears that a subject was driving a blue Honda Civic traveling westbound on Highway 6 – the same direction as the pedestrian.

“After the male was struck the driver turned back around and returned to the scene,” Klein said.

Klein said the driver was arrested and that he will likely be charged with various offenses, one of which is DUI.

“All subjects are innocent until proven guilty in court,” Klein said.

Rifle Police Department is currently speaking to witnesses and gathering more information about the incident.

“We are looking for anyone that stopped at the scene to give us a call, and anyone that may have witnessed anything that happened and did not stop to please give us a call,” Klein said. “We would also like to talk to anyone who saw a man walking along the side of the road this morning.”

Witnesses of the crash can reach Rifle Police detectives at 970-665-6500.

Colorado Department of Transportation personnel and Rifle Community Service officers helped to divert traffic during the road closure. The highway was closed for approximately two hours while the scene was investigated.

The Colorado State Patrol also responded to the scene to help with the crash reconstruction.

“I want to thank everyone who stopped to help the gentleman who died,” Klein said.

Judge: Recent Aspen area theft cases informed Johnson sentence

Embezzlement and theft are recurring themes in the Aspen-area crime annals, and the District Court judge who sent Derek Johnson to prison for six years Tuesday brought up three recent such cases before passing down the sentence.

Johnson, a former Aspen Skiing Co. executive, pleaded guilty to one count of felony theft for stealing more than 13,000 pairs of skis valued at $6 million from the ski company over 12 years and selling them on eBay for more than $3 million. He is scheduled to begin his prison sentence Monday at 7 p.m. when he reports to the Pitkin County Jail.

His wife, Kerri, also has pleaded guilty to felony theft and is scheduled to be sentenced next month, though she will not face a prison term under terms of her plea deal.

“The utmost consideration for the court is the integrity of the judicial process,” District Judge Chris Seldin said Tuesday.

Seldin told Johnson, a former Aspen city councilman and mayoral candidate, that he first pondered the cases of Shannon Nagle, a former office manager who stole more than $660,000 from a local women’s clinic where her sister was a doctor, and Angela Callen, who embezzled at least $125,000 from the nonprofit Red Brick Council for the Arts.

Seldin, who adjudicated both cases, noted that each ended with probationary sentences that included 90 days in the Pitkin County Jail, the maximum jail term he could have given under terms of the plea deal.

Because Nagle embezzled money that belonged to her sister and her sister’s business partners, her crime involved “a betrayal no less acute” than Johnson’s, as well as a significant amount of money. However, Nagle’s sister did not want her to go to prison, which contributed to the terms of a plea deal in which the District Attorney’s Office agreed not to recommend a prison sentence.

Seldin said Tuesday — as well as during Nagle’s sentencing in June 2018 — that he probably would have given her a prison sentence without the stipulation from the DA’s Office.

“I was concerned it would depreciate the severity of the (crime),” he said Tuesday.

Also, Nagle had already begun paying more than $570,000 in restitution — she returned $110,000 worth of cash and jewelry to the women’s clinic — which also weighed in favor of a probationary sentence.

Restitution also was a deciding factor in his decision to sentence Callen in July to probation as well, Seldin said. Callen wrote a check for $50,000 the day she pleaded guilty toward the $125,000 in restitution she stole. She also took significantly less than either Nagle or Johnson, the judge said.

“(Those) two recent cases would suggest a probationary sentence (for Johnson),” Seldin said.

Then the judge turned to the case the Robin McMillan, who investigators said embezzled more than $440,000 while working at the Garfield County Clerk and Recorder’s Office in Glenwood Springs. She was sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2015, though that sentence was reduced to nine years.

Finally, Seldin noted the gravity of Johnson’s theft and betrayal. He said it “dwarfs” the prior theft cases he’s dealt with. He called it an “incredibly serious offense” and pointed out Johnson’s “willingness to subjugate the interests of the company‘s division, over which he had authority, to his own personal interest.”

Also, the fact that, according to Skico executives, Johnson ordered two to three times the number of demo skis the company needed to pad the inventory he eventually sold on eBay — “that, to me, really stood out,” Seldin said.

“The scale of the theft here and the deliberate nature of it is such that a probationary sentence would depreciate the seriousness of the offense,” he said.

So, in the end, when he looked at the facts of the Johnson case weighed against the law, Seldin said he concluded that it was more like McMillian’s.

“The scale and the amount of theft is enough to justify a Department of Corrections sentence,” he concluded.

Former Aspen Skico exec sentenced to 6 years for stealing, selling equipment

Former Aspen Skiing Co. executive Derek Johnson was sentenced Tuesday to six years in prison for stealing skis and merchandise from the company and reselling the gear online for more than a decade.

In letters to District Judge Chris Seldin, Skico executives said Johnson stole more than $6 million worth of equipment during his scheme. They say he also was a bully who emotionally abused employees, reduced their wages and stunted their careers.

At Tuesday’s sentencing at the Pitkin County Courthouse, Johnson sat in the courtroom wearing a sport coat and dress shirt. He was credited with one day of time served.

Johnson, 52, pleaded guilty in November to one count of felony theft between $100,000 and $1 million. Johnson — who also served one term on Aspen City Council (2009 to ’13) and ran for mayor in 2013 — was facing between four and 12 years in prison.

His wife, Kerri Johnson, 48, pleaded guilty to felony theft in December as part of the scheme, and while prosecutors agreed not to ask for a prison sentence in her case, she will serve an unspecified probation sentence and possibly some time in the Pitkin County Jail. She is scheduled to be sentenced next month.

“This was no instance of isolated theft that might be explained away as a brief lapse in judgment,” Skico CEO Mike Kaplan wrote on behalf of Skico and its employees in a two-page letter to the judge. “On the contrary, Derek engaged in an ongoing, intentional, coordinated effort to steal from Aspen Skiing Company. This deception was methodical, intentional and remains unfathomable to me.”

On Tuesday, Seldin sealed the letters written to the judge. The Aspen Times obtained the letters last week in a request to the Court Clerk’s office.

The couple, who have three children, also will have to pay back Skico $250,000 as part of the plea deal.

After the sentencing, Johnson mouthed “I love you” to his family members, who were seated in the court room gallery.

Police and prosecutors alleged that Johnson and his wife stole more than $2.4 million in skis, snowboards and other goods during his 17-year tenure as managing director of Skico’s rental/retail department. The sales were conducted through eBay, and included billing Skico for the boxes they used to send their customers the stolen skis.

However, according to the letters from Kaplan and other executives, that turns out to be the amount the couple made selling Skico property at cut-rate prices, not the value of the products or what Skico paid for them.

There were nearly 30 letters sent to Seldin in support of Johnson and asking for a light sentence. They came from family members, neighbors, parents of kids he coached in football, current and former area elected officials and former business associates.

This is a developing story that will be updated.

Supporters of disgraced former Aspen Skico exec ask for leniency at sentencing

While Derek Johnson was condemned by most Skico-affiliated letter-writers to the District Court, many others in the community wrote to laud him for his friendship, dedication to family and community-minded spirit over more than two decades in Aspen.

The 29 letters urging District Judge Chris Seldin to be lenient on Johnson — with many asking the judge to spare him a prison sentence — came from family members, neighbors, parents of kids he coached in football, current and former area elected officials and former business associates.

“As a partner, I put my trust in Derek, confided in him,” said Eric Bergstrom, the “E” in the “D&E Snowboard Shop” that the two founded in Aspen in the early 1990s and later sold to Aspen Skiing Co. “Never did I have any reason to doubt his trustworthiness.”

Bergstrom called Johnson a dedicated family man with a passion for Aspen and the Roaring Fork Valley.

“I can’t understand why Derek made the choices he did that placed him in your court,” he wrote. “I ask for your leniency when sentencing Derek so that he may return to providing for his family and re-engage in the community.”

Johnson, 52, pleaded guilty to felony theft between $100,000 and $1 million in November for stealing nearly $6 million in company property, and is scheduled to be sentenced Tuesday afternoon, when he faces between four years and 12 years in prison under terms of a plea deal.

Former Pitkin County Commissioner and Aspen Mayor Mick Ireland, who served with Johnson on the Aspen City Council from 2009 to 2013, praised his former colleague’s community-mindedness and parenting. He also said he read Johnson’s “statement of offense” to the court and spoke with him about his transgressions, making him confident Johnson “owns both his behavior and its consequences.”

“In my view, Derek Johnson can be punished as fits the crime by a jail term and restitution schedule rather than a lengthy prison sentence likely to leave him isolated and unemployable on his release,” Ireland wrote. “His ability to make amends, financially and spiritually, will be enhanced by viewing him as a flawed human capable of redemption rather than a bad actor to be cast out into the darkness with little connection to family and community.”

Longtime Pitkin County Commissioner Patti Clapper also wrote that she admired Johnson’s dedication to the Aspen community, and said she, like many other letter-writers, got to know Johnson after he coached her son in football.

“I was perhaps Derek’s greatest football player’s mother challenge,” Clapper wrote. “When Derek and Kerri got married I was the one who encouraged them to have kids.”

Clapper urged Seldin to impose a local jail sentence and community service instead of prison.

“I am a firm believer in the importance of taking responsibility for one’s actions,” she said. “I also believe that each and every situation is unique and should be treated as such.”

Snowmass Village Town Councilman Tom Goode, who he recruited as an assistant coach on the Aspen High School football team, said he admired Johnson’s dedication to coaching and mentoring athletes.

“The community is in a bit of shock over this, of course, and he has certainly made a big mistake,” Goode said. “I know he is aware of this and is looking forward to making this right.

“He has a wonderful family and it would be righteous to afford him the opportunity to face the community and show his remorsefulness.”

The executive director of Aspen Junior Hockey, where Johnson served on the board of directors, said Johnson’s impact on the organization and local youth in general “has been tremendous.”

“I believe wholeheartedly that Derek is extremely remorseful,” Shaun Hathaway said. “I am hopeful that you will consider his role as a father and leader of our youth in this community and allow him to continue raising his children and helping volunteer his time with our youth.”

Just one of the 29 letters urging leniency is from a person who worked for Johnson at Skico.

Aaron Kane wrote that he worked under Johnson in a variety of roles at Skico rental stores from 2006 to 2014, and effusively praised him as a boss, a manager and a human being.

“I felt that I personally and professionally grew more in my period working for Four Mountain Sports than in any other period of my life, and this would not have been possible without the help of Derek Johnson,” Kane said. “I understand what Derek did was wrong and unlike anything I had known him to do, but I also understand that good people can make bad decisions.

“From my time knowing Derek Johnson, I can honestly say that I believe that he is one of the good people, a compassionate person that truly does care about all the people that he interacts with.”

Vail Valley bank robbers sentenced to multiple years in federal prison

A couple that bungled a series of bank robberies, including two in Edwards, each must go to prison before they can walk down the aisle together.

Craig “Lucky” Dickson was sentenced Friday to seven years in federal prison. His fiancée, Karen Hyatt, was sentenced to three years. They pleaded guilty to robbing five banks in fewer than 30 days — including two in the Riverwalk at Edwards — after they announced their engagement on Dickson’s social media page.

When they robbed the banks they did not wear masks or disguises. Police placed them at the scenes of the robberies because they carried their personal cellphones, and multiple people identified them after police posted their pictures on Metro Denver Crimestoppers.

The FBI caught Hyatt in the Adams County courthouse, where she had just posted $2,500 bond for a different criminal offense, according to the agency’s arrest affidavit. They pleaded guilty in September.

Their saga ended Friday afternoon in Chief Judge Philip A. Brimmer’s federal courtroom where they were sentenced to federal prison.

Their accomplice, Christopher Lutz, also pleaded guilty and is scheduled for sentencing Jan. 31.

How they were caught

Dickson and Hyatt announced their engagement April 8 in a social media post. Their crime spree started April 12.

During their investigation, the FBI checked Hyatt’s and Dickson’s cellphone records and found that they were together at the scenes of bank robberies in Denver, Boulder, Centennial and the two in Edwards — Wells Fargo and U.S. Bank, according to an FBI arrest affidavit.

Bank security photos matched photos on their Facebook pages as well as their criminal mug shots, the FBI said.

 At 9:02 a.m. on May 1, Hyatt got away with $9,734 in cash from Wells Fargo in Edwards, the FBI said. Things didn’t go as well three minutes later in the Riverwalk U.S. Bank branch. The tellers did not understand what Hyatt was seeking. When they took longer to respond than Hyatt wanted, she snatched back the note and left the bank with nothing, the FBI said.

Hyatt appeared on the on the U.S. Bank security video at 9:05 a.m.

“Hyatt’s most recent mug photo, taken March 3, bears a strong resemblance to the robber in the Wells Fargo Bank photographs,” the FBI said at the time.

The FBI says Hyatt is a multi-state offender with arrests for things such as possession of burglary tools, motor vehicle theft, vehicular eluding and drug possession.

Aspen Skico: Derek Johnson’s theft in selling skis was ‘methodical, unfathomable’

Former Aspen Skiing Co. executive Derek Johnson is a “calculating bully” who emotionally abused employees, reduced their wages and stunted their careers in a decade-and-a-half-long scheme to sell merchandise he stole from the company, which put the value at $6 million.

That’s according to several letters from Skico executives and employees, including CEO Mike Kaplan, filed Thursday in Pitkin County District Court ahead of Tuesday’s sentencing for the 52-year-old Johnson, who pleaded guilty in November to one count of felony theft between $100,000 and $1 million.

“This was no instance of isolated theft that might be explained away as a brief lapse in judgment,” Kaplan wrote on behalf of Skico and its employees in a two-page letter. “On the contrary, Derek engaged in an ongoing, intentional, coordinated effort to steal from Aspen Skiing Company.

“This deception was methodical, intentional and remains unfathomable to me.”

Johnson — who also served one term on Aspen City Council (2009 to ’13) and ran for mayor in 2013 — faces between four and 12 years in prison when he is sentenced Tuesday by District Judge Chris Seldin.

His wife, Kerri Johnson, 48, pleaded guilty to felony theft in December as part of the scheme, and while prosecutors agreed not to ask for a prison sentence in her case, she will serve an unspecified probation sentence and possibly some time in the Pitkin County Jail. She is scheduled to be sentenced next month.

The couple, who have three children, also will have to pay back Skico $250,000 as part of the plea deal.

Police and prosecutors alleged that Johnson and his wife stole more than $2.4 million in skis, snowboards and other goods during his 17-year tenure as managing director of Skico’s rental/retail department. The sales were conducted through eBay, and included billing Skico for the boxes they used to send their customers the stolen skis.

However, according to the letters from Kaplan and other executives, that turns out to be the amount the couple made selling Skico property at cut-rate prices, not the value of the products or what Skico paid for them.

Kaplan wrote that the Johnsons stole nearly $6 million worth of goods and profited at least $2.4 million from the sale of these goods.

They did so with “an unlimited supply chain, zero acquisition costs and no proper taxes paid on a local, state or federal levels. … (The) sheer volume of skis alone is equivalent to stealing two pairs of skis per day, every day of every year for 12 consecutive years,” one Skico senior executive wrote to the judge.

By that accounting, the Johnsons stole at least 8,760 pairs of skis.

The Aspen Times is not naming all of the Skico employees who wrote letters because they said the District Attorney’s Office told them the letters would not be made public before the sentencing. The Times obtained the letters through a request with the court clerk’s office.

In a text message Friday, Johnson declined to comment on the Skico letters, though he pointed out that 25 people, including current and former Aspen-area elected officials, have filed letters with the District Court urging Seldin to be lenient on him at Tuesday’s sentencing.

“I have letters from the community on file with the court,” he texted. “Anxiously awaiting Tuesday.”

RELATED: Johnson’s supporters ask judge for leniency

At his plea hearing in November, Seldin asked Johnson what he did that made him guilty of felony theft.

“I acquired some items without permission,” he said. “However, during sentencing, I’m looking forward to explaining some of the circumstances surrounding that.”

After Seldin asked him if he knew his actions constituted theft, Johnson said, “Certainly not initially. But I made some poor choices and that is the case.”

Kaplan, in his letter, referenced those comments and said he felt it was necessary to clarify “the timeline of events, and dispel any notion that his ongoing actions were in any way condoned.”

How the plan started, worked

In the early 2000s — after Skico bought the D&E Snowboard Shop that Johnson co-founded and made him an executive — the company had an agreement with him to sell “salvage skis” on eBay and split the profits, according to Kaplan’s letter. The skis were “demo product … no longer considered rentable by our standards,” he said.

“In those years, the profits from this effort were very small,” Kaplan said. “After a couple years of the joint eBay experiment, Derek informed his then-supervisor that the effort was not worth his or the company’s time. Derek advised us that he was shutting the project down, and the company agreed to that.”

However, Johnson did not shut down the experiment; he super-charged it, and began stealing and selling the salvage skis and brand new demo equipment, Kaplan said.

“As managing director of the rental/retail department, he also began a practice of ordering far more demo skis than were needed, thereby creating the excess inventory for his illegal enterprise while simultaneously thwarting efforts to implement more robust inventory controls and technology,” Kaplan wrote.

In fact, Johnson instructed Skico’s buyer to purchase two to three times the number of demo skis that ASC required, according to a letter to Seldin from a Skico vice president who worked on the company’s brand and marketing efforts.

“Our buyer questioned this immediately because the numbers didn’t make sense,” the person wrote. “Derek lied to him and said it was approved by leadership at the company.”

Flooding the market with cut-rate skis affected local businesses, including ski shops and stores that sold used goods, as well as Skico’s rental and sales business, the Skico senior executive wrote to the judge. In addition, it has caused manufacturers to raise prices to Skico after the allegations against Johnson came to light.

“Reselling at drastically below-market rates also impacted our vendors — the hard goods manufacturers,” the executive wrote. “They were understandably angry and responded accordingly by escalating ASC costs to purchase as a direct result of Derek buying goods under false pretenses and breaking contracted purchase terms.”

‘Stealing’ from coworkers

But perhaps the largest impact of Johnson’s actions was on rank-and-file Skico employees, according to the letters.

The company has performance-based bonuses for all salaried and many hourly employees. But “due in part of Derek’s stealing, his department missed budget almost every year of his criminal activity,” Kaplan said.

“Given the incentive structures at Aspen Skiing Company, this meant his employees received smaller bonuses, smaller raises and fewer promotions,” he wrote. “Derek was therefore effectively stealing from his own employees and coworkers.”

Johnson’s actions also negatively affected employees’ 401k plans, Skico officials wrote.

“Derek’s self-serving actions altered people’s wages and reduced their ability to support their own families,” the senior executive said.

However, it was another discovery about Johnson’s treatment of Skico employees that rattled executives, according to their letters.

Mental anguish suffered by employees

Several employees wrote letters to the judge detailing emotional abuse they allegedly suffered at Johnson’s hands. A company vice president wrote of numerous other employees who, sometimes tearfully, told of his allegedly abusive actions toward them.

Kaplan said Johnson “cultivated a culture of fear and intimidation within his department” that caused company officials to wonder “how we missed seeing that this sub-culture of intimidation existed within a company that I and over 90% of our employees are proud to work for.”

“I should add that whenever our ownership questioned the efficacy of Aspen Skiing Company’s rental/retail department, I personally defended Derek,” Kaplan said.

The Skico senior executive was “astounded” to hear of the “psychological power” Johnson wielded over employees that led to worries over reputations, professional livelihoods and mental stability.

“Realizing that someone you work with is a thief is very unsettling,” the executive wrote. “The discovery that surprised and distressed me the most, by far, during this process was comprehending what a calculating bully this man was in the eyes of those who relied on him most.”

The letter went on to say that “Simply put, you were either a follower and in his good graces or you were socially ostracized, administratively marginalized or professionally punished. His actions ruined some people’s careers, stunted the development of others and left an indelible mark on their character. …”

Finally, many wrote of the deep feelings of betrayal they have experienced since Johnson’s actions have come to light, and the fact that prison will remove him from his wife and three children.

“It pains me deeply to know that a father will be taken away from his children for a period of time,” Kaplan said. “This adds yet another layer of betrayal and trauma that Derek has imposed.

“But Derek did that. Not the Aspen Skiing Company, not his supervisors, not the court.”

Kaplan said Skico would like to see Johnson receive “at least the middle range of the sentencing recommendation, and we strongly request that he not be eligible for work release for a significant portion of that time so that he is forced to really reflect on what he’s done.”

Another wrote that after 15 years as his colleague, when Johnson’s actions surfaced he realized “that I really didn’t know this man at all.” He said he knows people in the community will write letters extolling Johnson’s positive attributes as a coach, father and person, but that those are not the issue at hand Tuesday.

“I’m sorry, but I don’t consider an admitted thief or liar as a stand-up guy or positive influence in any community,” the senior executive wrote to the judge. “This crime is the gift that keeps giving, and I mean this in the worst possible way.”

Man injured in 2016 Summit County police shooting pleads guilty to assault

BRECKENRIDGE — More than three years after being shot by a Summit County Sheriff’s Office deputy in a tense altercation, Nathaniel Steven Leisz has pleaded guilty to a felony assault charge.

Leisz, 36, appeared in custody Thursday afternoon at the Summit County Justice Center in Breckenridge for the long-awaited adjudication of the case stemming back to Christmas 2016. During the brief hearing, Leisz accepted a plea agreement to a felony charge of first-degree assault with a deadly weapon on a peace officer.

Just before midnight Dec. 25, 2016, officers with Breckenridge Police Department responded to the Breckenridge Animal Clinic on a report of a stolen vehicle. The reporting party told officers that he left his truck running while he went to pick up his linens from the laundromat behind the clinic and that it was gone when he returned, according to police records.

About five minutes later, deputies with the Summit County Sheriff’s Office were traveling south on Colorado Highway 9 in Frisco and observed a truck matching the stolen vehicle’s description heading north near Peak One Drive. They caught up to the vehicle in town and initiated a stop near the intersection of Summit Boulevard and 10 Mile Road. The driver, later identified as Leisz, pulled into a parking spot on the south end of Christy Sports.

The situation escalated quickly, according to records. Officers with the Frisco Police Department and the Colorado State Patrol arrived to assist on the call. Officers reported that when they ordered Leisz to show his hands, he apparently got out of the car and began yelling “shoot me” and holding a knife to his head.

Officers made several unsuccessful attempts to subdue Leisz, including shooting him with multiple Taser cartridges and a bean bag round fired out of a shotgun, according to reports. Leisz then dropped into a “fighting stance” and rapidly approached the officers.

A Sheriff’s Office deputy fired three rounds from his gun, one of which hit Leisz in the hand. Officers then were able to take Leisz into custody. He was booked into the Summit County Detention Center and was charged with 10 crimes, including felony counts of assault, aggravated motor vehicle theft, menacing and criminal trespass.

Given the circumstances of the incident, Leisz was placed on a mental health hold and was committed to a state psychiatric facility in Pueblo until he was deemed mentally competent to continue with court proceedings — a standard Fifth Judicial District Attorney Bruce Brown said included assuring he was able to properly understand the criminal justice process and able to assist his attorney in his defense.

At the hearing Thursday, Leisz pleaded guilty to first-degree assault with a deadly weapon, a Class 3 felony. As a result of the agreement, all other charges were dropped. The agreement also stipulated a sentencing range of eight and 16 years in prison in addition to fines and a probation period. According to Brown, Leisz will be given credit for about three years served due to his time spent in the psychiatric facility.

Chief Judge Mark Thompson set a hearing date for sentencing March 30.