Our View: Ensuring justice is met

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There should be no dispute - Giles Charle and David Siller committed a crime when they took fruits and vegetables from Sweet Pea Produce.

The men had more than $500 and a car when they were arrested June 26. It was early enough in the evening that Safeway, City Market and any number of stores in Steamboat Springs were open. They had the means and access to purchase food supplies for their trip to the Rainbow Family of Living Light gathering in North Routt County.

They set in motion the chain of events that led to headlines across the country about the handling of their case.

Still, sentencing the men to six months in the Routt County Jail - at a cost of $42 per day, per individual to taxpayers - appears to be a punishment that doesn't fit the crime. We urge the District Attorney's Office to reconsider a more appropriate sentence, especially in light of evidence that indicates the men may have taken nothing more than trash from the market on Yampa Street.

District Attorney Bonnie Roesink, while standing behind Assistant DA Kerry St. James' handling of this incident, said Tuesday she will create a citizens' review committee to look at how her office handles various cases. We applaud that move. Perhaps the committee can start with this case.

St. James maintains that police and the store owners' statements on the night of the theft indicate that felony burglary was committed. He rightly notes the men had the option of refusing the plea agreement and taking the case to trial. He also notes the men could have opted to plead to a deferred felony, which would have meant only three months in jail and a clean record if they successfully completed two years of supervised probation.

Rather, St. James said, the men met with several attorneys and chose to plead guilty to a misdemeanor and serve six months in jail.

The problem is that the store's owners maintain the men never entered the locked retail portion of the store. At worst, the store owners said, the men took a bag of over-ripe fruit and vegetables from the store's trash area. The only value the food had was to pig farmers, to whom the store occasionally sells waste. This is consistent with what the men have said throughout the case.

The store owners said they told St. James they did not want him to pursue felony charges or send the men to jail. St. James said the store owners never told him, before prosecution, that they did not think the men entered the store. If they had, he said, he might have dismissed the case.

But in such cases, new information can never come too late. Given the store owners' current statements, the lack of value of the items taken and the disproportionate jail term the men received in comparison to more serious crimes, Roesink and St. James should amend the plea to a more appropriate and lesser sentence.

Reversing a plea agreement is not a step we recommend lightly. But in this case, it seems the most practical and sensible way to ensure justice is met.

Comments

butterat42 8 years, 1 month ago

A reconsideration and significant lessening of the sentences is a reasonable solution now that ALL of the facts are available. A revised police report should be prepared immediately. Such an action should be taken as quickly as possible since justice delayed is justice denied. I was particularly taken by the District Attorney's Office and Police Department's insistence on only considering the original (and now clearly incomplete and incorrect) police report. The original report was taken in the heat of the moment, and ignores (in light of Mr. Hieb's and Ms. Zambrana's revised statements) the facts re. the non-entry into the establishment, and the taking from the dumpster of pig food.
In the the interests of justice for the the young men, the integrity of the Judicial and Law Enforceament systems in the County, and the reputation and economic interests of the City of Steamboat Springs MS. Roesink must act to reduce these sentences. Considerable damage has already been done, Ms. Roesink should not stubbornly continue to compound it.

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Theedge 8 years, 1 month ago

As someone who frequents Steamboat, I hope to never have a run in with your "justice system". I keep meaning to try out other resorts, perhaps this might be a good year for that.

That being said, as someone who has been in the music business over the last 20 years, if you think today's hippies are all about hugging trees and smoking a little grass you're sadly mistaken. These people get themselves into all sorts of nasty drugs; they are cruel and only care about what makes them happy right now at this exact moment. These are not nice people; anything you can do to oust them out of your county would be a good idea.

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flipside 8 years, 1 month ago

How about looking deeper into the story, Pilot? Or looking deeper into St. James himself? Do you know that he is now co-habitating with a subbordinate? Does Roseink support that as well?

Didn't Billy Kidd do almost the same thing as the RF kids? - go where he wasn't allowed, take (more expensive) food without paying? - and he WASN'T EVEN prosecuted, let alone faced with having to choose between a felony and six months in jail. (Of course he's a bigwig in this town and we know how you protect them, right Steve?)

How about looking into WHY St. James' office can't keep anyone with any skill for any length of time? You let the latest prosecutor's resignation go with vague references to bad management. We PAY for that management and YOU are the watchdog of that management, in case you've forgotten. Don't you think that bad management reflects poorly on the boss - St. James?

And why do you think the local recommendation committee refused to offer his name to the Governor for a judgeship? (Since they knew the Republican Owens ALWAYS picks a prosectuor, the committee refused to let St. James take the bench) The Committee (composed of local attorneys and supported by all of the leading legal minds in our valley) even went so far as letting the issue be heard by the Colorado Supreme Court. Has THAT ever happened before in the state? Ummm, no

There is a much bigger story here in terms of exposing who we have representing us from the people's side of the courtroom than St. James' arrogant and heavy-handed handling of the RF kids' case.

Show some guts, Pilot. Dig deeper and tell the truth. That's what your job is. You would serve us well by doing it well.

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Fastman 8 years, 1 month ago

How very sad this entire episode is. I mean just what the heck is going on there?

OK, so 2 men stole some garbage, and they shouldn't have, agreed. And yes, they plead guilty to a lessor charge to avoid a felony conviction, after having consulted with several local lawyers, agreed. That's their part in this drama.

But, where is judcial discretion in this case? Who benefits from the men locked up for 6 months, the men, the town, the prosecutor, justice?

I contend that the interests of justice were not served in this case.

Thank you for your time. S. Edward Mead

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Scott Wedel 8 years, 1 month ago

Whether or not Giles Charle and David Siller had $500 or were penniless, whether or not other stores were open are completely irrelevant.

The critical fact is that Giles Charle and David Siller are in jail serving a 180 sentence that will be reduced to 108 days for good behaivor for taking discarded food from a dumpster.

The store owner says they did not break into any locked part of the store. The store owner contacted the DA and asked that they serve only a few hours of community service. The store owner and DA Kerry St James agree that DA St James ignored the store owner's request and said that he was going to "make an example".

The problem in this case is that the DA was intent upon setting an example. Everything that went wrong in the case flowed that well of bad intent. His intent was not fairness or justice and thus niether was served.

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trouter 8 years, 1 month ago

Its amazing that Mr. "Theedge" (above) can lump all of "today's hippies" into one category, accusing them all of being into "nasty drugs" and being "cruel people". This shows a very limited perspective. And at the same time this person dogs Steamboat. Sounds like someone needs an attitude adjustment. Please go find another resort.

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Momabear 8 years, 1 month ago

While I'm no fan of the Rainbow Family or of their 'gatherings' (they trash every site I've ever seen them inhabit), this is America and everyone is supposed to be on equal footing within the justice system. This clearly isn't happening in Steamboat Springs.

Would the introduction of new evidence that these men are not guilty of the crime be enough for the governor to intervene and pardon them? Perhap those of you who reside in the state should be posing that question.

It is unfortunate that this has come as people are planning their winter vacations. The people who had suggested Steamboat Springs as a location for our convention were regular visitors. They are all going elsewhere. I saw one writer who said he or she was looking forward to less crowded streets, dining and ski slopes. It looks as though he may get his wish. I hope keeping this DA and her assistant doesn't do too much economic damage to your community.

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isobel 8 years, 1 month ago

FRIENDS, MY SON HAS JUST RECIEVED A LETTER FROM ST.JAMES THAT DUE TO OUTSIDE PRESSURE THE SENTENCE HAS BEEN REDUCED TO TIME SERVED. IT IS OVER.

GOOD LUCK AND THANK YOU+++BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE OF STEAMBOAT SPRINGS WHO STOOD UP FOR MY SON GILES AND DAVID. I FOR ONE, PLAN A VACATION TO YOUR GORGEOUS TOWN AS SOON AS I CAN. LOVE ALWAYS, GILES'S MOM SHAUNE

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isobel 8 years, 1 month ago

Hi, my mom already wrote something but I just wanted to send HUGE THANKS to the owner of Sweet Pea Jonathon Heib for sticking up to the truth. I hope everyone gives them lots of business!

Also thanks to the staff of the Pilot (especially Alexis) for tellin it like it is! I hope you guys take this as a lesson that we DO have the power to make change as one collective voice, i most definitely have.

YAY! isobel (giles' sister)

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kingsride 8 years, 1 month ago

I believe the average burglar commits 80 burglaries before he/she is caught. Have a good trip outta town Giles and David...Oh btw you didn't lose a ferret did you?

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trouter 8 years, 1 month ago

In New York City, dumpster diving is an accepted and condoned practice. It is a way for homeless people to feed themselves. No one looks down at it, in fact some people see it as an excellent form of recycling. I know some wealthy people who have watched bums dig through the trash and pull out half a sandwich still in the wrapper. "Gross", maybe to people who have enough money to provide food for themselves everyday. There are too many spoiled and judgemental people around here.

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digg_user 8 years, 1 month ago

Steamboat_Pilot

I hate to break it to you, but this is just part of why the crime, drug, suicide, and violence problems Steamboat has are among some of the worst in the state for a town of its size.

Plenty of bad stuff happens here, it's the individuals such as yourself that place your head in the sand and pretend it's a pristine mountain town. There is a lot of meth trafficking here, lots of shady things as well.

If you want it to truly pristine, don't take the approach that nothing bad happens because people are nosey, you have to be vigilant and confront this stuff head on.

With pertinence to this case, it's misplaced zeal and perhaps some other corruption involved in a power play for votes that went awry.

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digg_user 8 years, 1 month ago

Fair enough, and don't get me wrong I agree with vigilance.

It just seemed that you were implying "nothing bad happened" because of such vigilance, but I hear ya on the context you're framing that in.

It's not worth doing something that pathetically stupid.

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