Bosses support Aspen jailer in Sheen plea agreement flap
ASPEN – The top officials in the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office and jail gave a vote of confidence Tuesday to the coordinator of the community service program for not “bending the rules” for actor Charlie Sheen.
Jail Administrator Don Bird said Beverly Campbell has given the program a lot of credibility as an alternative-sentencing tool over the past decade or so.
“Every time you bend the rules for somebody, you run the risk of getting second-guessed,” Bird said. “Beverly does not bend the rules.
“That’s why [Sheriff Bob Braudis] is sticking up for her. That’s why I’m sticking up for her.”
Campbell unexpectedly found herself in a key role Monday when attorneys said a “snag” prevented them from reaching a plea deal in the case. The proposal called for the actor to perform community service during the day at Theatre Aspen, then check into the jail at night. The Sheen camp balked when they learned that jail rules would apply while he was working – he would have to return to the jail for lunch and he couldn’t smoke cigarettes.
The Sheen camp wanted more freedom for their client while he was performing community service. In 11th-hour negotiations before Monday’s hearing on the plea agreement, Campbell was called to Chief Deputy District Attorney Arnold Mordkin’s office and asked if she would approve the useful public service proposal for Sheen at the nonprofit theater company, and waive the eating and smoking rules, according to Bird. Campbell declined to waive the rules and said the community service proposal would be thoroughly reviewed as part of standard policy. Braudis declined to overrule Campbell.
Mordkin and Sheen’s Aspen attorney, Richard Cummins, told Pitkin County District Judge James Boyd a short time later they needed more time to work on the “finer points” of the plea agreement. The trial and pretrial motions hearings were vacated, and a hearing to consider a possible plea agreement was rescheduled to July 12 at 4 p.m.
Braudis said Tuesday that one of his employees would have to do something egregious before he would overturn a decision. Campbell had his support for her decision, he said.
Bird said that Cummins approached him in mid-May to inquire if Sheen would be eligible for the work release program, which differs from useful public service. “I told him he wouldn’t fit our criteria for work release,” Bird said.
Work release is typically a tool to use when restitution is part of the sentence of a jail inmate. The concept is they need to keep the job to earn money to pay the restitution. Work release inmates leave the jail specifically to go to their place of employment, then return to the jail at night. They have little supervision during the day while on the job.
“My question is, what does a a guy who makes $20 million a year need to do with a work release job?” Bird asked.
Sheen recently signed a contract for nearly $2 million per episode to act on the CBS show “Two and a Half Men.”
Useful public, or community, service is a tool made available to more inmates than work release. Inmates can build “good time” and reduce their jail sentence, Bird said. First, inmates are expected to perform “chores” around the jail, mostly minor cleaning, he said. They also have the option of making themselves available for work outside the jail.
In other cases, useful public service is part of a judge’s sentence. In those cases, the judge gives the jail staff discretion to decide if the inmate qualifies for the program and where it is appropriate for the person to work, Bird said. Sometimes an inmate requests to work at a specific place, and Campbell reviews the proposal.
When an inmate performs useful public service while serving a jail sentence, the inmate must adhere to jail rules, Bird said. That includes a prohibition on cigarette smoking, which has been in place at the jail since 1992.
Bird said no one approached Campbell before Monday regarding Sheen’s possible stint in useful public service. In fact, he said he was told by the prosecutor’s office as late as Friday that useful public service wasn’t part of the proposed plea agreement.
Mordkin declined comment. “That would mean talking about what was in the agreement, and I’m not going to do that,” he said.
Cummins didn’t return a telephone call seeking comment. Attorney Yale Galanter, who is representing Sheen and his wife, Brooke Mueller Sheen, said the written plea agreement proposal he reviewed Monday had provisions that weren’t part of previous verbal discussions – specifically, the rules of the useful public service program. He stressed he wasn’t blaming the district attorney’s office. The rules just weren’t clear to everyone.
Asked if the defense team and prosecution had different visions for Sheen’s community service, Galanter said he didn’t think the signals got crossed.
Lunch was one of the snags. If the folks at Theatre Aspen ordered a pizza for lunch, Sheen wouldn’t be able to join them. Instead, he would have to walk a quarter-mile or so uphill and return to the jail for lunch.
“You’ve got to eat jail food and drink jail drink,” Galanter said, referring to useful public service rules for inmates.
“We’re responsible for their welfare. That includes their meals,” Bird said.
As for smoking, Sheen could have sneak-smoked in a bathroom, but if he was busted he risked being found in violation of the terms of his sentence, officials said. Sheen is widely described as a chain smoker.
By performing useful public service, Sheen could have shaved as much as 12 days off the anticipated 30-day jail sentence. Bird wouldn’t speculate if Campbell would have approved Sheen’s work at Theatre Aspen if the proposal was reviewed according to jail policy. Work at Theatre Aspen has been approved in the past, when there were specific chores that constituted a legitimate public benefit, he said.
Another option is for Sheen to serve his jail term and perform community service after the jail sentence. In that scenario, Sheen wouldn’t be subject to jail rules, Bird said.