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Sheriff says accused criminals in Fremont County now boasting that they face ‘no repercussions’

FREMONT COUNTY, Colo. (KRDO) -- The Fremont County Sheriff told 13 Investigates that while being arrested, several accused criminals are mocking his deputies - claiming they face "no repercussions" for their actions.

In Colorado, judges set bond amounts and types, like cash or no cash bonds, after hearing arguments from prosecutors and defense attorneys. When it comes to the 11th Judicial District Attorney's Office, however, Fremont County Sheriff Allen Cooper said there are cases where the DA's office doesn't even show up to argue on behalf of the community and the public. That results in more accused criminals walking out of jail sooner.

Cooper said people charged with serious crimes are now openly talking about being released from jail on no cash bonds.

Just last week, 13 Investigates profiled seven different sex assault cases that were either dismissed or bond was reduced because of violations by the 11th Judicial District Attorney's office. Now, one of those men has been arrested again on felony charges.

Derek Thulson, 29, previously charged with sexual assault, had his case dismissed on April 17. He was out of jail on a $5,000 PR bond after a judge reduced his bond because of prejudicial discovery violations by the DA's office.

Just two days later on April 19, Thulson was arrested by Cañon City Police for felony burglary. He's accused of trying to forcibly enter a family member's home that he was previously trespassed from.

According to court records, Thulson told arresting officers that he "was going to get out on a PR bond" the next day "so it was fine." Just as he predicted, Thulson was released on a $2,000 PR bond by the courts on April 20.

Derek Thulson

Thulson's words struck a cord for Sheriff Cooper, who told 13 Investigates people entering his jail regularly express to one another that they will be out soon because of the propensity that PR bonds are given in Fremont County.

"The people that are incarcerated in our facility openly talk about it. They are saying there's no repercussions. You know, it is an inconvenience for them to go through the booking process," Cooper said. "Sometimes they may spend some time within the facility. Sometimes they don't. The work for my folks is the same regardless."

Cooper explained that his team has formulated a system for assessing people entering the jail, factoring things like how often they fail to appear, and the risk of re-offending, among other factors. Those papers are then given over to the 11th Judicial District Attorney's office, led by elected DA Linda Stanley.

However, Cooper said too often Stanley's prosectors are offering no bond argument at all or are not showing up to bond hearings altogether.

"Whenever they're asked by the judge, what's the recommendation, the usual response is 'whatever the court would like," Cooper explained, referencing the DA's office. "What we're seeing is that it's the public defenders that are actually making the recommendation for bond conditions, and those are almost universally PR or personal recognizance bonds."

According to court documents obtained by 13 Investigates, 55-year-old Ross Hague is another example of a repeat accused offender being released over and over again. Hague has three felony and three misdemeanor cases open in the 11th Judicial District.

He was arrested on April 19 and charged with multiple counts of felony menacing with a weapon. He was released on a PR bond.

Days later on April 24, Hague was charged with felony assault. He was given another PR bond.

Now today, April 27, he was charged with felony menacing and received a $10,000 cash-only bond. This only came after prosecutor Wendy Owens provided an argument for why Hague shouldn't be given another PR bond. At this time, Hague hasn't posted bond.

Sheriff Cooper said Hague and Thulson are just a few of many who openly know they will be granted additional PR bonds even if they are charged with more crimes while out on bond.

While judges are the ones who grant bonds, including the amount and type of bond, Cooper said the fault lies more with the DA's office not using the risk assessment tools they are given.

"I'd like to see my detention staff and the chief judge sit down and review the risk assessment tools and arrive at a decision of what are we going to do," Cooper said. "Is this tool valuable for the courts? Or is it just a waste of our time?"

Just like in previous coverage of the ongoing controversy surrounding the 11th Judicial District Attorney's Office, District Attorney Stanley has not responded to 13 Investigates requests for comment on case dismissals, or law enforcement's continued and ongoing criticisms of her office.

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Sean Rice

Sean is reporter with the 13 Investigates team. Learn more about him here.


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