MEEKER I The story continues for one of two females who allegedly misrepresented themselves as relatives of Meeker residents in December while claiming to sell magazines to fund a Meeker High School volleyball trip to Florida.
Kristina Ann Lopez, 23, appeared before Judge John Neily on Friday after being held in the Rio Blanco County Jail for nearly a month because she is unable to post a $7,500 bond.
Public defender Elise Myer, asked the judge to release Lopez on a personal recognizance (PR) bond, which allows a defendant to leave jail based on the personal promise that he or she will appear at a future court date.
Assistant District Attorney Matthew Barrett objected to the PR bond.
“… considerations include ties to the community and ties to this state,” Barrett said. “This defendant does not have ties to this community whatsoever.”
Barrett went on to state that the allegations that the defendants traveled here selling magazines from a Maybell shop has actually drawn significant scrutiny from the Moffat County law enforcement personnel. They have “some concerns about what is going on there,” Barrett said.
A more specific allegation is that Lopez and her co-defendant, whose actual name was originally not known since she used false identification when arrested, reportedly worked their way inside the home of an elderly Meeker woman who is dying of cancer. At some point, they reportedly asked if they could use the restroom and, as the elderly woman was showing one of them to the restroom, the other one allegedly took $70 from the woman’s wallet.
“These people cannot be trusted, judge,” Barrett said. “I will also note that this defendant has outstanding warrants for failing to appear in both Texas and Florida and are non-extraditable.”
Based the nature of these charges, the allegations that have been made and the strength of the case, Barrett argued that the original bond of $7,500 should not be changed.
“If this defendant is released from custody, there is no reason to believe that she will return to this court,” he said.
Defense counsel Myer responded, “The bond statute seeks to reduce pre-trial incarcerations for an inability to pay. What we have here is somebody who is not able financially to post that bond as it is currently set.”
Myer went on to explain that her client found out about the Texas warrant after she left the state, having never received a summons to appear, and was not aware of the one in Florida, thinking the matter closed after paying a fine.
“She has a right to a bond, so we are simply asking for a reduction,” Myer said.
After the defendant promised she would return to court, Judge John Neily stated his reluctance to grant her a PR bond. His decision was based upon the failure to appear in the Texas and Florida incidents as well as other factors such as a criminal history, no ties to the community, public safety, employment and character.
“On the other hand, I don’t mean to diminish the severity of what you have allegedly done, but we are talking about $70,” Neily said. His decision then was, “I don’t want to see you languish in jail for an offense that involves $70, but (since) you do have some employment, housing, (and) a boyfriend who is going to vouch for you, I am going to reduce the bond to $3,500.”
The next hearing is Feb. 20.
Warning Lopez again, Judge Neily added, “Don’t disappoint me, please.”
The defendant was originally released on a $3,500 bond, but she failed to appear at this hearing.
Collins said that at this time the defendant’s whereabouts were unknown. It was his opinion that wherever she is, she was voluntarily not at the hearing.
“I spoke to (her) one time (Jan. 15) at about noon,” Collins said. “She wouldn’t tell me where she was and I heard a man’s voice in the background.”
Barrett asked Neily to issue a nationwide warrant for her arrest in the amount of $10,000. He also re-emphasized the concerns of law enforcement concerning what type of operation is going on in Maybell.
“Many of the employees are young girls, and there seems to be suspicious activities going on,” he said.
Collins seemed to speak for all by saying, “We just hope we can find her quickly and get her back to Rio Blanco County.”
Judge Neily issued the bench warrant and the next court proceedings were set for Feb. 6.