Motorcycle’s rumble greets a free man

Moments after breathing open air in front of the Mesa County Justice Center as a free man, Robert Dewey on Monday heard the distant boom.

Somewhere, a motorcycle screamed down a street.

Dewey smiled.

He touched a tree for the first time in more than 16 years.

This, after lighting a piece of ceremonial sage and covering his body with its smoke, part of his Native American faith toward achieving balance amid a mass of cameras.

He looked forward to “real food,” which was a steak dinner with reservations for the night at downtown Grand Junction’s Winery restaurant. The Innocence Project, the New York-based advocacy group that fought on Dewey’s behalf, was picking up the tab.

Beyond that, Dewey said plans were perfectly unmade.

“I just want to kind of kick back, ride my bike, and be with my family,” said Dewey, who left District Judge Brian Flynn’s courtroom out the front door, arms raised with his attorneys, Jason Kreag and Danyel Joffe.

Dewey’s serene, easygoing manner wasn’t always easy to maintain in prison.

“They threw me into a dark tunnel, you know what I mean?” he said. “You’ve got a pinpoint of light and the object is to get to that light and make it better.”

“For the first two years (in prison), I didn’t make my bed because ... it just seemed like a dream,” he said. “Then reality sets in.”

Judge Flynn on Monday granted a joint motion to dismiss charges and vacate the 1996 jury trial conviction in Dewey’s case, while ordering Dewey’s first payment of funds from the State of Colorado: A refund. The judge ordered Dewey to receive court costs, which Joffe said might add up to $280.

“I deeply regret it took so long to uncover your innocence,” Assistant District Attorney Rich Tuttle said during the hearing, addressing Dewey directly.

“I wish you nothing but the best in the future,” Tuttle added.

“Thank you, sir,” Dewey replied.

Tuttle was among two prosecutors who tried and convicted Dewey in 1996 for the June 1994 slaying of 19-year-old Jacie Taylor.

At the end the hearing, the men shook hands.

“It takes real character to stand up here and say we made a mistake 17 years ago,” Joffe told the judge.

Dewey also received apologies from Martha Kent, the second prosecutor in the 1996 trial.

“I lost my child, too,” Dewey was overheard telling Kent, expressing thoughts for Jacie Taylor’s family.

Joffe, after the hearing, confirmed Dewey’s son died five to six years ago.

When later asked if he felt he should be compensated by the State of Colorado, he replied: “That would be nice. But that’s up to lawyers and those kinds of things. I got locked up when I was 33 and I’m 51 now. Where am I going to get a job?”

Wherever prospects take him, Dewey said he’s not staying in Colorado.

Angela Brandenburg, a North Carolina resident and Dewey’s girlfriend, said they started corresponding online via PenPals roughly a year ago. She said she responded to an advertisement Dewey had placed in prison.

They wrote to each other daily, she said.

“I liked his hair,” she said, laughing.

Dewey’s letters, always positive, often turned to riding motorcycles, she said. Dewey said he doesn’t really care where upcoming rides take him.

“As long as it’s in the wind, I’m happy,” he said.


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