Tempers flare in Jensen bond hearing; no decision made
In a heated exchange, a defense attorney who once represented Palisade mother Heather Jensen accused Mesa County prosecutors of improperly “alerting the press” about a probation violation hearing for Jensen in Mesa County scheduled in January.
Attorney Ed Nugent, nearly yelling at Assistant District Attorney Rich Tuttle during testimony Wednesday in District Judge Valerie Robison’s courtroom, accused the District Attorney’s Office of plotting a “ruse” to have Jensen arrested on child abuse charges by having her appear at a hearing before County Judge Bruce Raaum.
Jensen was to face probation violation allegations at the hearing, which was scheduled for Jan. 18.
At the time, Jensen had been living for several weeks in Florida.
Jensen instead was arrested in Florida on a Mesa County warrant on Jan. 16, two days before the Jan. 18 hearing.
“Your intent was to arrest her at the probation violation hearing,” Nugent said from the witness stand.
Nugent on Wednesday testified a media outlet had caught wind of the Jan. 18 hearing, while asking the judge “how would they know” about it unless they had been tipped off by prosecutors. Tuttle noted the setting of Jensen’s Jan. 18 hearing was public record, accessible to anyone.
The exchange between Nugent and Tuttle came as Robison issued no decision on a defense motion for a bond reduction in Jensen’s case. She’s being held at the Mesa County Jail on $150,000 bond.
Robison is expected to rule on the bond motion this morning.
Public Defender Thea Reiff, Jensen’s current attorney, called Nugent to testify on Wednesday that Jensen would have voluntarily returned to Colorado to face felony child abuse charges. Prosecutors disputed that notion.
“There was never any issue she was going to come back to Colorado,” Nugent testified.
Jensen was extradited to Mesa County from Florida at a cost of $2,375.
Jensen, while under investigation for the deaths of her sons William, 2, and Tyler, 4, left Colorado for Florida after penning a letter dated Dec. 11 to Raaum.
As a condition of her deferred judgment and probation for a third-degree assault conviction, Jensen was prohibited from leaving the state without permission.
Jensen wrote in her Dec. 11 letter that leaving Colorado would allow her to “start my life over again” following the “losses I’ve had this past month.”
Raaum on Jan. 7 issued an order — well after Jensen had apparently already left Colorado — denying her request to leave the state.
Mesa County Criminal Justice Services on Dec. 31, 2012, filed a summons and notice to revoke Jensen’s deferred judgment, citing in part Jensen’s leaving without permission, while pointing to four failed drug tests for marijuana use.
Jensen is charged with four felonies and one misdemeanor charge, including two counts of child abuse resulting in death, two counts of criminally negligent homicide and one count of false reporting to authorities.
Her sons died as a result of overheating in their mother’s Toyota 4Runner on the night of Nov. 27, 2012, on Grand Mesa. William died that night, while Tyler was removed from life support on Dec. 3.
Jensen’s preliminary hearing is scheduled for May 1.