Jeep thief gets five years

Steamboat man says he will strive to better himself

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— A 32-year-old Steamboat Springs man was sentenced to five years in prison for stealing two Jeep Cherokees last summer.

On Friday afternoon, 14th Judicial District Judge Joel S. Thompson ordered Michael Pope to serve five years in the Colorado Department of Corrections. Pope was also ordered by Thompson to pay $7,000 in restitution.

Thompson could have given the man six years in prison for his guilty pleas to felony charges of first-degree aggravated motor vehicle theft, theft and violation of a bail bond condition. Pope also pleaded guilty to driving under the influence, a misdemeanor.

As part of a plea agreement, Pope pleaded guilty to the charges in return for a prison sentence of no longer than six years.

Thompson said he was considering giving Pope the maximum time behind bars but changed his mind because of two reasons.

Thompson said the sentence punishes Pope but also gives the man an opportunity to rehabilitate himself.

The second reason Thompson changed his mind is because of the apology Pope gave in court.

Pope, who is bipolar, took responsibility for everything he did last summer when he stole the vehicles in a nine-day period last July. Pope said at the time of the thefts he was using alcohol as a way to medicate his condition.

"I apologize to you and everyone else here," he said. "I should not have gotten myself in this mess. I'm sick of this. I'm tired. I don't want to deal with this anymore.

"I made some pretty bad decisions last summer. They are the worst decisions I have ever made in my life. I have nothing. I have thrown away everything I have worked for and believe in."

Pope said he stopped taking his medication before the thefts to save money.

"I thought I could get by," he said. "It was a mistake.

"This has been a lonely and unproductive life, and I am better than that."

Pope stole a red Jeep Cherokee in the early morning hours of July 10 from Mount Werner Lodge. After a pursuit that started on Old Fish Creek Falls Road, Steamboat Springs officers arrested an intoxicated Pope when he lost control of the vehicle at the intersection of Pine and Third streets.

Pope allegedly tried to flee on foot but was arrested when he was found hiding in a flowerbed in the 300 block of Lincoln Avenue.

Pope was booked into the Routt County Jail but was released July 18 because prosecutors failed to file charges within 72 hours of his arrest.

In the early morning hours of July 19, an intoxicated Pope was arrested a second time. This time, Pope stole a dark-colored 1998 Jeep Cherokee and attempted to elude police during a high-speed chase on U.S. 40.

Pope was arrested on foot by officers in the 3100 block of Chinook Lane. Since this arrest, Pope has served 313 days in the Routt County Jail in lieu of $50,000 bail.

Since the arrest, Pope has been getting treatment for alcohol and substance abuse and is taking medication.

He also has attempted to steer juvenile delinquents away from breaking the law by talking to them about his experience.

"I'm not going to let this destroy me," Pope said. "I have been an honest member of society, and I will be again."

For the felony charges, Thompson gave Pope four years in prison, which will be served concurrently. Pope was given an additional year because of the bail bond conviction.

However, Thompson gave the man credit for 313 days toward the four-year sentence and 303 days for the bail bond sentence.

Pope said he has learned his lesson through this experience even though he has a lengthy criminal record that started when he was 16.

Between 1987 and 1991, Pope was convicted of numerous charges, which include vehicle thefts, assaults and driving under the influence of alcohol.

In 1991, he was convicted of conspiracy to distribute cocaine and spent six years in prison.

"I'm a fighter," Pope said. "I am not going to give up. I am going to strive to better myself."

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