Felon to be sentenced in federal court next month
DENVER – The sentencing of James Douglas Roe in U.S. Federal Court has been postponed until Aug. 23.
Roe, who was found guilty of careless driving resulting in the death of Mark Berndt of Keystone and the serious injury of Heather Adam of Silverthorne in 1996, is serving the second year of a four-year sentence. He also has pleaded guilty to federal charges of providing false information in an attempt to buy a firearm.
The original charges stemmed from an Aug. 10, 1996, incident in which Roe, who was hauling logs from the Silver Shekel neighborhood north of Breckenridge, turned left from Highway 9 into the Stan Miller excavation lot. Prosecutors and their witnesses contended during trail that Roe’s logs pivoted into Berndt’s lane of travel when he turned into Miller’s lot; the defense said Berndt had crossed over into Roe’s left turn lane and crashed into his load of logs. Berndt was killed instantly, and Adam was seriously injured.
The case was heard four times in Breckenridge. The first time, a witness accidentally said he’d asked Roe a question to which Roe said he’d been arrested before, prompting the judge to call a mistrial. The second time, the case was deemed a mistrial because the court tape recorder malfunctioned.
Roe was convicted of vehicular manslaughter at the third trial, and sentenced to 20 years in prison. But the Court of Appeals overturned the conviction, and Roe posted bond to appear for rearraignment of the charges.
The fourth time, the jury found him guilty of careless driving resulting in death and careless driving resulting in bodily injury. Fifth Judicial District Judge Terry Ruckriegle sentenced him to four years in prison.
While out on bond between the third and fourth trials, Roe tried to purchase a .22-caliber rifle at the Frisco Wal-Mart. According to U.S. District Court files, Roe indicated on one of the forms that he’d never been convicted on any charges that could have garnered him a year or more in prison. He also indicated he was not under indictment for any crime, nor was he subject to a court restraining order. Roe’s ex-wife, Kimberly, had placed a restraining order against him.
The Wal-Mart clerk who assisted Roe called the Colorado Bureau of Investigation for a required background check and bureau officials denied the sale, citing previous felony convictions. Those included first-degree robbery in 1976 in San Diego, assault with a deadly weapon in 1984 in San Diego, possession of a dangerous weapon in 1984 in Larimer County, and willful destruction of wildlife in 1987 in Larimer County.
In addition, U.S. Assistant District Attorney Bill Taylor wrote in a plea agreement that, “The defendant was aware that he could be imprisoned for more than one year, because he had been sentenced to 20 years in prison for these offenses following his conviction for them on March 6, 1998.”
Roe now faces additional jail time on the federal firearms charges, but how much time he could serve is up for debate. Prosecuting attorneys say the prior felony charges should count toward the sentencing time; Roe’s attorney is arguing that they fall into the parameters of lesser charges.
He could serve up to 10 years on the charges, and pay up to $250,000 in fines.
Jane Stebbins can be reached at 668-3998 ext. 228 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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