A jury found a Mancos woman guilty Thursday of criminal mischief for causing $20,000 to $100,000 in damage to the Dove Creek Fire Protection District when she excavated the fire district’s property, adjacent to her bakery.
Julie Ott, 50, was convicted of a Class 4 felony and will be required to pay restitution to the fire district. The jury concluded that in May 2017 Ott unlawfully and knowingly damaged the district’s property. It stopped short of convicting Ott on a charge of conspiracy to commit criminal mischief.
The Dolores County case moved to Montezuma in December. Sentencing is scheduled for March 14.
Ott displayed billboards on the side of the La Watha LLC bakery building on U.S. Highway 491 that displayed a variety of themes, including personal attacks on firefighters and a quote from the Declaration of Independence.
The jury of eight women and five men had the option of finding Ott guilty of causing $5,000 to $20,000 in damage or $20,000 to $100,000 in damage. Jurors chose the higher range.
DCFPD board president Dan Johnson said he believes the verdict was fair and he felt one conviction was enough.
“I think the citizens and taxpayers of Dove Creek and Dolores County are somewhat vindicated by the decision, by the verdict, but as far as winners – there’s no winners in this, we’re all losers,” he said.
He said the fire district received an estimate showing damage at Dove Creek Volunteer Fire Department Station No. 1 at $49,000. He said the billboards were “blasphemous to the fire department in general and to fire department members individually.”
Assistant Fire Chief Grant Allen said the Otts installed video cameras too and that he was proud that none of the firefighters “did anything stupid” in response to the billboards and cameras.
“Somehow we became the aggressors and they became the victims, and that’s how they tried to portray themselves,” Allen said of the billboards.
District Attorney Will Furse said Ott’s daughter, Angela Ott, was a named and uncharged co-conspirator. According to the Colorado Secretary of State, Angela Ott is the registered agent of La Watha, which owns two parcels on U.S. 491 in Dove Creek.
Furse said his office has the discretion to charge Angela Ott but that he was satisfied with Julie Ott’s conviction.
Furse said Julie Ott will likely pay $20,000 to $100,000.
During the four-day trial, Ott was advised by counsel Cameron Secrist. On Wednesday, she called her daughter as a witness and questioned her.
Angela Ott testified that a week after they excavated the backside of the bakery property, the fire department placed a pin on the excavated area and claimed it was on its property.
She testified that she wanted to resolve the issue civilly and was surprised when she received a letter from Cortez lawyer Kelly McCabe that asked La Watha to deed the lots to the fire district or write a cashier’s check for $55,000.
“This letter shocked me,” Angela Ott said.
She also testified that the charges filed against her and her mother in February 2018 shocked her further.
During Angela Otts’ cross-examination, Deputy DA Jeremy Reed claimed she failed to measure the boundary line properly and used the assessor’s map, which contains a disclaimer against using it for legal purposes.
Ott testified that this was the first time she has purchased property.
To calculate the property line, she testified that she used the assessor’s map, her taxes and a third property document that states the information displayed is for “first land” or “improvement purposes only.”
Ott testified that her measurements were correct and that she did not want to “fork out” $2,000 for a property boundary survey when the county assessor told her the maps were accurate.