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Court Services, IncPrisoner Neglect and Abuse

Published on Aspen Daily News Online (http://www.aspendailynews.com)

Van carrying inmates crashes on pass

Writer:
Troy Hooper
Byline:
Aspen Daily News Staff Writer
A vehicle carrying an Aspen arrestee slid off the road Tuesday on its approach to Independence Pass and had to be assisted by sheriff’s deputies.

The accident comes the day after the mother and sister of Francesco Anthony Saputo, 29, picketed outside Pitkin County Courthouse, claiming the driver for Court Services Inc. was endangering Saputo and others by allegedly falling asleep at the wheel. They said the incident bolstered their claims against Court Services Inc.

Sheriff’s deputies in Lake County, where the accident occurred, and in Pitkin County, which assisted in the accident, said the vehicle slid off the road in snowy, icy conditions but it was never in danger of going off a ledge. Colorado State Patrol, which is investigating the accident, did not return messages.

Two of the inmates in the vehicle were taken to Leadville while the vehicle was pulled out of its predicament and later released back to Court Services Inc.; a sheriff’s deputy drove Saputo from the Lake County side of Independence Pass to Aspen. The deputies said no citations are expected. An ambulance was called, however, because one of the two employees for Court Services Inc. apparently injured his leg after he exited the vehicle.

Appearing before Judge James Boyd on Tuesday, Saputo became emotional describing his extradition from California. The drive from California to Colorado took a little over a week to complete.

“[It] scarred me mentally. I’ve been abused and deprived of my rights to eat, sleep, ” he said as his mother and sister sobbed beside him. “I’ve been on this field trip with this company that has not housed me or fed me.”

Messages left for Court Services Inc. in California were not returned. Research shows the business has had run-ins with the law before.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Arnold Mordkin advised the court he is likely to charge Saputo with two counts of forgery, theft of more than $1, 000 and conspiracy to commit forgery and theft.

Aspen police allege Saputo used a counterfeit $100 bill to purchase a dog toy and a cookie for $31.64 from C.B. Paws. Authorities believe Saputo is one of three men who spent between $1, 500 and $1, 700 in counterfeit bills on small items so they could pocket the real cash.

Evidence against Saputo listed in an arrest warrant consists primarily of video footage of him making a purchase at C.B. Paws. Saputo’s mother, Susan White, has questioned how authorities can be sure that the money in her son’s hand is counterfeit in the video. Andrew Allan McCollom and Christian Adam Gaxiola, 30, were previously arrested in the alleged counterfeiting caper. The three men drove here from California in August.

Mordkin declined to discuss evidence in the case but he claimed that Saputo is complicit in McCollom and Gaxiola’s alleged crimes. He asked the judge to set bond at $12, 500. Saputo pleaded for a lower bond.

“The charges brought against me are hideous, heinous and they are not fair. ... I pose no flight risk to this community, ” said Saputo, who noted that he has worked for about a decade as a bricklayer and that he is currently enrolled in nursing school. He also said he has a child to take care of in California as well as his sick 84-year-old father whom he assists with in-patient care.

Judge Boyd took Saputo’s circumstances under consideration and set his bond at $3, 500, which was well below Mordkin’s recommendation.

Saputo’s mother, White, and sister, Helena Williams, flew here from New York to support him. They had picketed outside the courthouse on Sunday and Monday, censuring the Pitkin County Jail for hiring Court Services Inc. After meeting with Sheriff Bob Braudis, they agreed to drop their sidewalk protest. Braudis has assigned an investigator to review their complaints.

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