Outlaw embezzlement case heads to trial | VailDaily.com

Outlaw embezzlement case heads to trial

Veronica Whitney

Vail Daily/Melinda KruseBrandon Outlaw faces trial in May.

District Attorney Mark Hurlbert argued for $112,000 in restitution and up to 90 days in the county jail. A probation officer recommended that Outlaw be sent to state prison for six years.

“The court doesn’t believe that the sentence concession does justice,” Moorhead said during the sentencing hearing Monday. “Restitution is just one issue when it comes to sentencing.”

Outlaw, 31, withdrew his guilty plea and will have his $112,000 reimbursed. An eight-day trial was scheduled for May 24.

The former Avon resident who is accused of stealing the money in local condominium fees will face the original charges against him: two counts of theft, one count of unauthorized use of a financial transaction device, and one count of forgery – all felonies. If convicted, he faces four to 12 years in prison for each count.

He is also charged with misdemeanor sexual offense for not registering in Eagle County as a convicted sexual offender.

“We have a good case for trial,” Hurlbert said after the hearing. “And we have six months to prepare.”

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What lies ahead

A number of property owners allegedly victimized by Outlaw adamantly opposed the plea bargain that the judge initially accepted in October. Outlaw agreed to plead guilty to one theft charge, a class 4 felony, in return for paying restitution and avoiding a prison sentence.

Moorhead said he received 35 letters – 33 against the plea and two supporting it.

But Monday, several people said they had changed their minds in light of the likelihood Outlaw would go to prison on drug-trafficking charges from last summer that he faces in Oklahoma. Outlaw is accused of selling 13 ounces of cocaine and 500 tablets of ecstasy, according to court records in Tulsa, Okla.

“My feelings have changed and our hope is that there’s some restitution paid,” Bart Skidmore, a homeowner at West Lake Village, told Moorhead on Monday. “Any restitution would go a long way.”

“Justice could be done by accepting the plea,” Hurlbert argued during the hearing. “(Outlaw) isn’t a good guy. He is a convicted sexual offender and now he faces drug-trafficking charges. Given what could happen in Oklahoma, it is possible that the victims could get nothing other than this $110,000.”

If convicted on the drug-trafficking charges, Outlaw could spend 20 years to life in prison, the district attorney said.

“He will still go to prison,” Hurlbert said. “The prosecutors in Oklahoma have told me they have a good case.”

The Daily learned Sunday that in May 1994, Outlaw was convicted in Oklahoma of felony sexual battery and sentenced to three years in prison. He served a little over a year before he was released in August 1995.

Hurlbert said Monday that he believed Outlaw’s previous sexual offense conviction and the new drug charges were key in the probation officer’s report.

Seeking “true justice’

Finding a balance between punishment and making the victims “whole” has been difficult, Hurlbert said.

“We can still ask for restitution if he is convicted,” Hurlbert told a group of homeowners after the hearing Monday.

Jeff Antonius, a Vail Point homeowner, said he trusts Moorhead even though he was disappointed in the judge’s ruling since he won’t receive restitution as the plea bargain would have granted.

“We’re confident that Judge Moorhead is going to seek true justice,” Antonius said. “Justice will be served when (Outlaw) goes to trial and he is found guilty.”

For Dennis Havlik, the West Lake Condo Association board president, Moorhead’s decision made sense.

“This might not be the best for us, but he has to consider what is the best for Eagle County,” Havlik said. “With all the embezzlement cases there had been in the past years, Moorhead needs to send a message of how embezzlement is punished in Eagle County. (Outlaw) is a career criminal.”

James Poppleton, property manager of PRM Reality in Eagle-Vail, the company for which Outlaw worked when he allegedly embezzled the money, said that evidence he gave police includes more than 1,000 copies of forged checks and deposits.

“There’s a lot of evidence against Outlaw,” Poppleton said. “I remember when I first called (Outlaw) and asked him what was going on. He said, “I did it.’ “

Veronica Whitney can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 454, or by e-mail at vwhitney@vaildaily.com.