Few members of public attend Sheen hearing

Interest in law, ‘pure nosiness' draw small crowd to courthouse

ASPEN — Tourists who came to Aspen to ski and shop found themselves attracted Monday to a scene of another sort outside the Pitkin County Courthouse.

And before they knew it, some of them even ended up inside a courtroom, watching actor Charlie Sheen appear before a judge on domestic violence charges.

Sue Skanse and Kris Alexander, who had extra time on their hands Monday following a canceled flight home to Minnesota, took advantage of the chance to fill some of the 40 seats reserved for the public in the courtroom Monday.

For them, seeing Sheen was less of a draw than watching the legal process in action.

“It was just interesting to see how it all works,” Skanse said afterward.

Terri Britton of upstate New York also got the chance to go in the courtroom, after being drawn to the courthouse to see a media event that drew dozens of reporters and photographers from Colorado to Hollywood.

“I just thought I’d take a walk over and see for myself — just pure nosiness,” Britton said.

Cheryl O’Leary of Greenwood Village noticed the commotion at the courthouse and almost attended the proceedings herself before realizing she had nowhere to stash her cell phone and camera, which weren’t allowed inside the courtroom. She said she was surprised not to see more members of the public at the scene.

Only a handful of visitors who weren’t media representatives attended the hearing. Security personnel let reporters unable to secure some of the 20 courtroom seats reserved for the media take ones set aside for the public.

That’s how freelance reporter Jeanie Stokes of Denver was able to cover the proceedings for Agence France-Press. Asked about the French news organization’s interest in the story, Stokes said its editors like odd news events.

“You’d be surprised. They went ape over the balloon boy,” she said.

Tourists Sri Gunaratnam of Oklahoma City and his wife, Sheela Ayyaru, waited outside the courthouse Monday hoping to spot Sheen entering.

“We don’t get celebrities in Oklahoma City,” Ayyaru said.

While celebrity sightings are common in Aspen, city police spokeswoman Marie Munday said the last such high-profile case of a celebrity appearing in court apparently involved the 1970s trial of Claudine Longet. A jury found the actress and singer guilty of a misdemeanor charge in the shooting death of her boyfriend, Olympic skier “Spider” Sabich.

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