Denver man gets 7 years in prison for bike thefts in Vail |

Denver man gets 7 years in prison for bike thefts in Vail

Robin J. Clifton. Photo courtesy of the Eagle County Sheriff's Office.

EAGLE — A Denver man with an extensive criminal history was sentenced to seven years in state prison Wednesday in Eagle County District Court after pleading guilty to charges related to a pair of bike thefts in Vail back in 2019.

In the agreement with prosecutors, Robin J. Clifton, 61, pleaded guilty to theft and an amended count of criminal attempt to commit second-degree burglary, both felonies. His case was set to go to trial April 5.

Per the agreement, Clifton was sentenced to three years and four years in prison for the two convictions, which will run consecutively for seven years in total. He was given credit for 617 days already served in county jail.

“It’s fair to say this case has been hotly, extensively litigated for the past almost two years,” Joe Kirwan, assistant district attorney for Colorado’s 5th Judicial District, told the court. “Certainly people could argue that based on his criminal history that the negotiated, stipulated term in (Department of Corrections) is insufficient. Others could say it is just property crimes and was more punitive than necessary.“

While out on parole, Clifton allegedly stole a bike valued at nearly $4,000 from a rack in front of a sporting goods store in Vail back in June 2019. After that bike was found in the back of Clifton’s Toyota truck in the area and recovered by a store employee who had gone out looking for it and photographed the vehicle, Clifton allegedly broke into the same store a day later during the night, smashing out a window and stealing a $5,500 bike and two helmets.

Clifton has an extensive criminal history, including first-degree arson convictions in the town of Rifle, where in 2005 he set fire to multiple buildings and caused more than $1.5 million in property damage. He was sentenced to 24 years in prison in that case in 2007.

When asked by Judge Paul R. Dunkelman how much of his life he has spent in prison, Clifton, who was charged as a habitual offender in the case, said “probably half.”

“This could have been the one that meant you spent the rest of your life in prison. Hopefully this one will not be, but the next one will be,” Dunkelman said, encouraging Clifton to use his time in prison to learn skills and how to live in society.

Clifton told Dunkelman that classes he has taken during previous stints in prison taught him how to deal with his mental health challenges and stop using drugs and alcohol, but did not teach him how to live in society.

“That’s one thing I’m working on now,” he said.

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