WALSENBURG — A settlement offer in an arson case and unrelated criminal case against a Walsenburg business owner, could, if accepted, wipe the defendant’s slate clean of criminal charges, and has angered those whose homes and possessions were destroyed in the May 31, 2013 conflagration. Defendant John Chadil appeared in District Court on December 19th with his attorney Carl Fatta, for what was supposed to be a preliminary hearing in the Main Event arson fire case. The state was represented by Assistant District Attorney Andrew Hall. Huerfano County Court Judge Gary Stork was scheduled to hear the show cause case, but when the judge, the attorneys and defendant came into court, Hall announced a possible financial settlement agreement had been reached. The families who lost their homes and all of their possessions in the fire who attended the Thursday hearing were visibly shocked when Hall explained the proposed settlement. The deal, if formally accepted by a District Court judge in February, would see Chadil’s cash bond of $15,000 (in the Main Event fire case) and $40,000 in criminal case 2013-CR-31, modified into personal recognizance bonds, and a certified check for $55,000 turned over to the district attorney’s office to be paid as restitution to the victims of the fire; the Quinteros, Ashley Webb, Aubrey Jennings and Fidelio Martinez. In case 2013CR31 Chadil faces charges of conspiracy to commit first degree criminal trespass (class 6 felony); conspiracy to commit third degree assault (class 1 misdemeanor); and conspiracy to commit criminal mischief (class 3 misdemeanor). That case is unrelated to the fire, except Chadil was charged with five counts of violation of bond conditions from that case (class 6 felony) when he was charged in connection with the May 31 fire. A condition of the bond in 2013CR31 was the defendant have no other criminal charges filed against him. In the Main Event fire case, (2013CR39); in addition to the bond violation charges, Chadil faces five counts of 4th degree arson (class 4 felony) and five counts of reckless endangerment (class 3 misdemeanors). If the proposed settlement is accepted by the court, all of the felony and misdemeanor charges would be dismissed by the district attorney. There would be no plea by the defendant to any lesser counts (this is why the Huerfano World Journal is not reporting this as a potential plea agreement and using the term settlement instead). Judge Stork asked Hall if the victims had been notified of the most recent settlement offer, and Hall said no. Victims Andrew Quintero, Ashley Webb and Angelo Quintero told the Huerfano World Journal they were aware of a prior restitution settlement offer for approximately $110,000, but none of them said they thought all of the criminal charges against the defendant would be dropped. The fire victims are represented by private counsel for possible civil suites against Chadil. They voiced concern about the potential strength of those civil cases if all of the criminal charges are dismissed. The court took the settlement offer into the official record and a disposition hearing date of 10 am Monday, February 10, 2014 was set, and the preliminary hearing was waived. At the end of the brief hearing Thursday, the Quintero brothers and Webb berated Hall for the district attorney’s office’s decision to seek the financial-only settlement. The victims who attended the hearing were of one voice when they said they never thought the restitution issue would be the only justice the defendant faced. “We’re still homeless for Christmas, you guys aren’t doing this right,” Angelo Quintero told Hall. “This is not right, $55,000, but no felonies stick against him?”Andrew Quintero asked Hall. “We do care about restitution, but we care about justice too,” he added. “You’re just going to let him walk away,” Andrew said. “He’s known these kids for 25 years,” one family member said, “and he’s never even told them he’s sorry.” Hall listened to the victims’ comments without saying much to them, obviously surprised by their reactions. “I’m not going to debate this with you,” he said to the group. “He doesn’t care, he’s just looking at us blank,” said Ashley Webb referring to Hall. “I do what I think is right every single day. I did what I thought was right for these people,” Hall told the HWJ. “I’m getting them some funds to help cover their losses. I know it’s not everything,” he said. When asked if he would be discussing the victims’ reactions to the proposed settlement with his boss, District Attorney Frank Ruybalid, Hall said he didn’t know. When asked why the DA’s office would consider rolling the unrelated criminal case into the arson case Hall would only say there were some problems with ‘the other case’. Walsenburg and Huerfano County officials were notified November 18, of a possible civil lawsuit that may be filed by Chadil seeking upwards of $200,000 damages from the May 31, 2013 Main Event fire. The letter says, in part, “The Huerfano County Fire Protection District were not properly equipped with the water necessary to fight the fire and the fire was purposely left to burn as a ‘controlled burn’ for approximately 45 minutes to one hour after their arrival. As a result of their negligent decision to let the fire burn, the fire spread across the alley to other properties”. The letter also alleges the Walsenburg Police Department failed to provide security to the crime scene and Chadil’s home was burglarized. No report of a burglary at the business around the date of the fire was found in police records.
Las Animas County Commissioners have much to discuss by Bill Knowles TRINIDAD