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Paul Dunkelman, chief judge of the 5th Judicial District, is ready to make an impact in new role

Paul Dunkelman gives a speech Thursday, Oct. 7, 2021, at the Colorado Judicial Institute’s 2021 Judicial Excellence for Colorado awards dinner. Dunkelman was a district court judge when he received the award but in February, he was named chief judge.
Cara Dunkelman/Courtesy photo

Paul Dunkelman stepped into the role of chief judge as an interim position after former Chief Judge Mark Thompson was placed on administrative leave in October. Now that Dunkelman has officially been named to the position for the 5th Judicial District he’s ready to continue leading the district in providing equitable access to justice so community members have confidence in their legal system.

Dunkelman got his start in the legal field when he attended Colgate University in Hamilton, New York, where he earned a bachelor’s in economics and political science. He officially made the jump to Colorado when he earned his Juris Doctor from Sturm College of Law at the University of Denver in 1993.

Shortly thereafter, Dunkelman moved to Frisco where he opened a practice with two other attorneys, Ron and Judy Carlson. During this time, the trio practiced criminal law, domestic relations and civil law. The firm, named Carlson, Carlson & Dunkelman, LLC, was where Dunkelman said he first experienced the true reward of working in this field.

“I (think) most of the cases we handle are good people going through the worst time in their lives, and when you help them through that, at the end of the that, (whether) they say thank you, don’t say thank you, that’s not the issue, but they sort of appreciate and understand that you helped them through the most difficult time in their life,” he said.

Dunkelman said this feedback, whether positive of negative, is something that sticks with him long into the future. One such comment occurred after he had been appointed district court judge in 2013. Dunkelman said shortly after being appointed as a judge, he was overseeing a divorce case that was emotional and stressful to each party.

“I thought I’d explained the process well to them, I thought they understood the process … After I made my ruling, the wife asked me when she got her chance to explain her side of the story,” Dunkelman said. “It didn’t affect the ruling, the issues were limited, but it affected her confidence in my decision that she didn’t think she was heard, and it was upsetting to me and really eye opening to me.”

There are others Dunkelman said he’s had the chance to learn from, including his former partners, Ron and Judy Carlson; former District Court Judge David Lass; and Summit County Court Judge Edward Casias.

Michael Pisciotta, court executive for the 5th Judicial District, has worked with Dunkelman for seven years. Pisciotta noted one example of Dunkelman’s character from his time as a district court judge. During the pandemic, many courts put their dockets on hold, but there was one high-profile murder case Dunkelman oversaw where he took extra measures and precautions so the trial could move forward safely and efficiently. For this work, Dunkelman was selected the Colorado Judicial Institute’s district court judge of the year in 2021.

“In my seven years, we hadn’t had a 5th District judge that had received that type of an award and it was very well deserved because he was courageous enough to move forward and smart enough and wise enough to implement as many precautions as we could to protect the public,” Pisciotta said.

Though Dunkelman stepped into the role of chief judge at a difficult time for the court, he said the role of chief judge was already on his radar and something he was interested in pursuing. As chief judge, he is still responsible for a full docket, but now his role is to oversee the administration of the 5th Judicial District, which serves Clear Creek, Eagle, Lake and Summit counties. This means overseeing personnel and the budget, but it also means meeting with stakeholders and being accessible to the community.

With a few months under his belt already, Dunkelman said he’s not interested in making any major changes immediately. Instead, he’s interested in focusing on ways the court system can better provide access to needed services.

“I want to continue to be innovative in how we provide access to justice to all parties, regardless of whether you can afford an attorney, not afford an attorney, whatever your role is and whatever your issue is that we provide a means to access the court system,” Dunkelman said.

Vail police arrest four for burglary, stolen vehicles

The Vail Police Department arrested four men involved in two linked cases of stolen vehicles Tuesday and Wednesday.

Police responded to a report Tuesday night that a black electric scooter had been stolen from Ski & Snowboard Club Vail on the 500 block of Vail Valley Drive, according to a press release sent Wednesday.

The scooter was parked outside of a garage when it was stolen by suspects driving a white rental van who were later located on surveillance video, according to the release.

Later that night, police found the occupied van on the top deck of the Lionshead parking structure with the stolen scooter inside.

As a result, Matthew Curtis, 41, and Michael Russo, 28, were charged with second-degree burglary, theft and conspiracy to commit a felony.

Russo was also charged with four counts of criminal possession of a financial device after police found that he had credit cards that were not in his name, according to the release.

This incident ultimately led to the arrest of two more men who were there that night.

A blue-green pickup truck that was reportedly stolen from Silverthorne was seen in the same area of the scooter theft Tuesday, but the driver fled before police could investigate further, according to the release.

Police located the stolen truck at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday driving through the main Vail roundabout and began following the vehicle as it traveled westbound on Interstate 70 before exiting at West Vail.

The driver of the truck refused to pull over.

Officers established a perimeter around the West Vail neighborhood and, ultimately, found the truck abandoned at the end of Garmisch Drive.

With the assistance of Avon Police, the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office and multiple calls from the public with information on the suspects, Vail Police Officers found both men that were in the stolen truck, according to the release. The men were located separately, on foot.

The two men, Logan Lancaster, 24, and Jordan Ray Butler, 33, were arrested on multiple warrants stemming from cases on the Front Range, including warrants for failure to appear in court as well as charges that include theft, shoplifting, probation violations and trespassing.

The pair face several new charges and investigators are working with the Silverthorne Police Department to bring additional charges of burglaries, thefts and criminal possession of financial devices, according to the release.

Anyone with information about this incident is encouraged to message Vail Police on Facebook or contact Sergeant Justin Liffick at jliffick@vailgov.com or 970-479-2200.

Out on bond, Flores charged with misdemeanor, six new felony charges

Authorities allege that Jesse Flores, 20, of Gypsum, wrote numerous fraudulent checks totaling about $728,000 to steal vehicles in Eagle, Chaffee, Grand, Mesa, Routt and Summit counties, where he faces a total of 18 felony charges.
Photo special to the Daily

EAGLE — A 20-year-old Gypsum man already faces 18 felony charges spread out over multiple Colorado counties for allegedly writing about $728,000 in bad checks to steal a variety of cars, trucks, trailers, ATVs and snowmobiles from their owners last year.

He’s now facing one new misdemeanor and six new felony charges.

Jesse Flores has been charged with various combinations of motor vehicle theft, theft, fraud by check and forgery, all felonies, in Eagle, Chaffee, Grand, Mesa, Routt and Summit counties.

Prosecutors this week filed a new misdemeanor charge of cybercrime to scheme or defraud against Flores as well as six new felony charges for violation of bail bond conditions — one for each county where he is facing charges. The bond violation charges are punishable by 12-18 months in state prison.

According to prosecutors, the seven new criminal charges stem from the online sale of a hunting bow sale that went wrong in February. Flores was allegedly trying to sell a compound hunting bow on the internet and then failed to ship the bow or refund $775 in payment to a West Virginia man, even after a deputy started to investigate and made contact with Flores, according to an Eagle County Sheriff’s Office affidavit.

Promised the bow as well as $800 back for his trouble, the West Virginia man never got either, according to the affidavit. Instead, the man reportedly got a package containing a torn white envelope, with no cash or money order inside, but an apology letter from Flores.

“Dear Dave, I apologize for the issues that have come up with this bow. It is an amazing bow and I hope you enjoy it a lot. Within this package is the money order for $800. Please keep the money and the bow for your time. Sincerely, Jesse Flores,” the letter stated, according to the police affidavit. Flores reportedly maintained that he sent the man $800 in $50 bills as well as the bow, though he never provided police with a tracking number for the items.

Flores was advised of the new charges against him Tuesday in Eagle County Court.

In his other pending vehicle theft and check fraud cases, prosecutors allege that Flores wrote bad checks to buy vehicles and use them for as long as he could string along their sellers, and would later return the vehicles, some of them with damage, as law enforcement got involved.

Prosecutors said they have found evidence of about $728,000 in fraudulent checks and $50,000 in vehicle damages in total.

“We are aware of what is going on in all the other cases, and we are in contact with all the other jurisdictions and continue to work with them,” said Heidi McCollum, the district attorney for Colorado’s 5th Judicial District, which spans Clear Creek, Eagle, Lake and Summit counties.

Flores is next scheduled to appear in court in Eagle County on March 31; in Chaffee County on April 14; in Grand County on March 29; in Mesa County on March 25; in Routt County on March 23; and in Summit County on March 29.