EDITORíS DESK: One plea short of a bargain
If you've never had to deal with the court system, my advice is to do your best to keep it that way. What initially seemed like a straightforward exercise - finding out the legal fates of the five arrested in the theft/scrapping of Gold Hill Mesa's historic jail cell - became a time-consuming, surprisingly intricate research
project. Each suspect had other ongoing or recent legal scrapes involving stolen goods. What prosecutors do in such a situations is work out a deal in which some cases get dismissed and/or charges get reduced in exchange for a guilty plea that may lead to incriminating information on other bad guys... who in turn
may have previous warrants against them, which can lead to them pleading out, etc. etc.
Oh, and did I mention it's almost impossible to obtain specifics on any of this? There's no employee assigned to sort through the day-to-day maze of convictions and sentences - unless it's a high-publicity homicide or the like - and lay it out in tidy, clear press releases for media types. Ask for an interview, you might suggest? Unfortunately, judges and the district attorney are neck and neck with the mayor for unreachability. Even the DA's "community outreach director" stopped returning my calls. One place a person can go is an office in the courthouse basement, where, if the case number is known (a sleuth job in itself), workers will print related pages of obtusely worded court activity, at a set cost per page. In the end, my most basic questions were answered by a few assistants in the court system (thank you!); I also printed some of those expensive pages and was able to talk to Bob Willard and the detective on the case.
So was justice served? Well, the jail is gone forever. Willard was short-changed on the restitution. The perpetrators (although not imprisoned) at least received some punishment, and other crimes were solved as a result. I'd say more, but only if I can get a plea bargain.