A community corrections inmate in Montrose used stolen credit cards and the names of other inmates to buy pizza and sandwiches, resulting in the expulsion of two Montezuma County defendants from the program, according to an independent investigation from a defense attorney’s office.
Jacob Kotarski spent 53 days at ATC Montrose, which stands for Advanced Treatment Centers, before the residential community corrections facility kicked him out, citing new charges.
In 22nd Judicial District Court on Monday, Judge Todd Plewe had the option to resentence Kotarski to state prison, but instead ordered a new community corrections screening for the 22-year-old defendant from Peoria, Arizona.
Kotarski’s attorney, Kenneth Pace, stated Monday that to this date no charges have been filed against his client.
Tyson Berry, program director at ATC Montrose, said he cannot talk about specific clients or cases, but said the facility uses the administrative review process as defined by the Colorado Division of Criminal Justice to regress clients. He could not comment on why Kotarski was regressed or whether there were new charges.
“I would encourage you to call the court,” Berry said.
A representative with the 7th Judicial District in Montrose confirmed Tuesday to The Journal that there were no new charges against Kotarski.
Since Pace first contested Kotarski’s removal from ATC Montrose two weeks ago, a second defendant in 22nd Judicial District Court, Christopher Gonzales, claimed he was removed from ATC Montrose based on false information. His resentencing was continued until later this month.
Pace stated in court Monday that he has spoken with Gonzales as well as another inmate who was regressed from ATC Montrose, and both men expressed that they had no idea another inmate was using their names for fraudulent purchases. He said five inmates have been removed from the facility based on the fraud allegations.
“They wouldn’t risk their freedom, they wouldn’t risk their ability to stay out of prison for a sandwich or for a pizza,” Pace said.
Based on the investigation report from an independent investigator – which court clerks stated they could not release to The Journal – both Plewe and Assistant District Attorney Matthew Margeson agreed that Kotarski was not criminally at fault for the alleged credit card fraud, but he still was regressed from the facility and still broke the rules.
Pace asked the court to resentence Kotarski to probation.
Plewe explained some of Kotarski’s history. Kotarski in May 2017 pleaded guilty to possession of a controlled substance, and Plewe in August 2017 sentenced the young man to one year of probation. Plewe said Kotarski “failed miserably.”
In April 2018, Kotarski was arrested and later pleaded guilty to distribution of a controlled substance. His probation was revoked and he was sentenced to drug court. Again, Plewe said Kotarski “failed miserably.” He was later placed in in-patient treatment before a one-year sentence to community corrections.
“Your Honor, I just want to thank you for saving my life,” Kotarski told Plewe in court Monday.
The defendant said he doesn’t think he would be alive today if Plewe didn’t sentence him to drug court. He said he’s a new person and has found hope.
Before Plewe was ready to rules on Kotarki’s sentence, Margeson said Kotarski has been given the opportunity for probation and there is no way he would be successful on probation in this community.
But Margeson said it seems wrong that someone who is sent to community corrections and abides by the rules, for the most part, to be sentenced to the Colorado Department of Corrections. He also commented on the lack of new charges out of Montrose.
“I know why charges have not been filed,” Margeson said. “It’s not a good case.”
Plewe took a 20-minute recess to think the case over and review the statutes.
When he returned to the courtroom, he said Pace did a “pretty good job” of showing Kotarski didn’t commit a criminal offense, but it still appears he violated the rules in Montrose.
He said he recognizes that Kotarski has been given many chances and probation probably won’t work for him. He said Kotarski needs more structure.
As he contemplated the statutes and possible sentences for Kotarski, Plewe said he is of the mind to rescreen the young man for a new placement in community corrections in Mesa, Alamosa and Durango.
“I think it’s the best opportunity for him to try Comm Corr again, if he can do it,” Plewe said.
Seven of Kotarski’s family members sat in the front row of the gallery during the hearing, but could not communicate with the defendant.