Independence Pass hostage-taker pleads guilty to 2016 incident |

Independence Pass hostage-taker pleads guilty to 2016 incident

Jason Auslander, Aspen Times
Brolin McConnell, left, is escorted into the courtroom at the Pitkin County Courthouse for a plea hearing Tuesday. McConnell allegedly held three men hostage at gunpoint in 2016 on Independence Pass. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times) Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times

A Colorado Springs real estate agent who took three men hostage and terrorized them at gunpoint on Independence Pass in July 2016 faces up to two decades in prison after accepting a plea deal Tuesday.

Brolin McConnell, 33, pleaded guilty Tuesday in Pitkin County District Court to criminal attempt to commit first-degree kidnapping and felony menacing. The first charge is considered a crime of violence because he used a deadly weapon.

He could have faced up to 32 years in prison for the attempted kidnapping charge, though the District Attorney’s Office agreed to a sentencing range of between eight and 20 years as part of the plea deal. He will have to serve a mandatory five years of parole once he’s released from prison.

McConnell, who has been in custody at the Pitkin County Jail since July 27, 2016, made no comments in court except to answer yes or no to District Judge Chris Seldin’s questions about whether he understood what he was doing.

He is scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 3.

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McConnell used two handguns to take the three men he did not know hostage on Lincoln Creek Road. He forced the men to remove their shirts, repeatedly threatened to kill them and fired guns at birds he said were drones.

Two of the men were able to run away from McConnell, but the third man had a leg injury and couldn’t get away as easily. McConnell fired a round from one of the guns at the injured man’s feet and another next to his head before he was able to get away.

McConnell, who later was found to have only a small quantity of marijuana in his system at the time of the incident, gave up soon after the third man ran away and was arrested without incident.

He initially pleaded not guilty to the 18 felony counts the DA’s Office filed against him, including attempted first-degree murder. In December 2017, nearly a year and a half after he entered that initial plea, McConnell changed his plea to not guilty by reason of insanity.

That stopped all movement in his case until he could be examined by psychiatrists at the state hospital. Fourteen months later, the state psychiatrists found him sane. McConnell’s 10-day trial was scheduled to start Tuesday.

One of the three victims was in court for Tuesday’s hearing but told Seldin he didn’t want to speak.

The three victims have filed a civil lawsuit against McConnell, which has been effectively on hold for two-and-a-half years while the criminal case was pending. That case can now move forward, said Ryan Kalamaya, an Aspen lawyer whose firm represents the three victims.

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