Three juvenile defendants in Alpine Arms theft appear in court
Eagle Valley Middle School leaders say there is no ongoing threat to public safety
The three Eagle Valley Middle School students charged with varying levels of involvement in the theft of five handguns from Alpine Arms in Eagle appeared in court Wednesday.
Two of the three defendants face a slew of charges related to last month’s incident and have been in custody at the Mount View Youth Services Center in Denver since it occurred on Aug. 24.
The hearing of one of these two main defendants revealed that a protection order was put into place barring him from having contact with a person who was allegedly told by the defendant that he was at the top of his “kill list,” according to Juvenile Prosecutor for the 5th Judicial District Attorney’s Office Daniel Steinhauser.
In a statement released a few days after the incident, Eagle Valley Middle School leaders said they had worked with Eagle Police and the district attorney’s office to ensure that there is no ongoing safety threat to the school or community.
“We are extremely appreciative of the seamless response levied by Eagle Police Department,” Eagle Valley Middle School Principal Eric Mandeville said at the time. “Their professionalism and attention to detail assisted our staff in safely and effectively rectifying the situation.”
One main defendant faces a total of 15 charges related to theft, burglary, criminal mischief, criminal trespass and five counts of possession of a firearm by a minor for each gun that he allegedly stole. He also faces multiple charges for allegedly conspiring with the other defendants to commit the crimes, as well as two counts of a special “sentence enhancement” classifying him as a violent juvenile offender.
Another main defendant faces a total of 14 nearly identical charges, including the sentence enhancement. The enhancement means that both defendants are entitled to a preliminary hearing and a jury trial should they choose to plead guilty. It also constitutes a minimum sentence of one year in some kind of out-of-home detention or treatment facility if they are convicted or plead guilty, Eagle County District Court Judge Paul Dunkelman said.
Both have been banned from the grounds of Eagle Valley Middle School and will finish the school year through alternate education plans.
Protection orders were also signed Wednesday that ban all three defendants from going near Alpine Arms or having any kind of contact with each other or witnesses in their cases.
They are also prohibited from having firearms in their homes and drinking alcohol, although all three are 12 to 13 years old.
The third defendant faces just three charges for her alleged involvement in the incident: theft, conspiracy to commit theft and second-degree criminal trespass. She was the first to appear Wednesday afternoon and assigned a public defender. She remains in school at Eagle Valley Middle School. Steinhauser said he believes she could be a good candidate for Eagle County’s juvenile diversion program, which helps keep kids and young adults out of the criminal justice system. Upon successful completion of the program, her case would be dismissed, Dunkelman said.
Dunkelman granted a motion to close the courtroom to the public for the appearances of the two other defendants. Appearances in the county’s juvenile court are often scheduled for the same time on a specific day, so there were quite a few members of the public and “potential classmates” in the courtroom at that time, Steinhauser said regarding the motion.
The judge granted the request after a defense attorney said his client feared “some sort of retaliation” for what might come out during the appearance. Dunkelman asked everyone to leave but made exceptions for anyone affiliated with the case and the media.
“There is a public interest in this. I have got to balance those needs,” Dunkelman said.
Juvenile cases don’t operate like the prosecution of adults, Dunkelman explained to the defendants and their parents on Wednesday. If the defendants were to be charged in an adult courtroom, they would each be facing multiple felony charges, he said.
If found guilty, each defendant could be sentenced to up to two years in an out-of-home detention or treatment facility, including up to 45 days in a juvenile detention facility. They could also be subjected to up to two years of supervised probation, Dunkelman said.
The two main defendants were released into the custody of their families Wednesday and ordered to wear GPS and electronic monitoring systems at all times and undergo a mental health evaluation. They were also ordered to 24-hour supervision by their parents or other designated adults and cannot leave their homes without it. They are barred from using social media, playing violent video games and using the internet for anything beyond educational purposes until further notice.
Email Kelli Duncan at firstname.lastname@example.org