A partial transcript from the meeting with District Attorney’s Office officials
District Attorney Bonnie Roesink: Well, I’m very disappointed in the newspaper because they wrote an article it’s like a tabloid news article. I’ve written a letter to the editor. I’m going to be meeting with the editor and with the publisher today. And they did not get the facts before they wrote the story, and I think that is really horrible that somebody, a local newspaper that is supposedly reporting facts had no idea what the true facts of the case were. Evidently, they didn’t even look at the probable cause affidavit that was in the case file. They talked to defense attorneys, and they talked to the victims. Well if you we have copies of the police reports here for anybody who would to have them. And if you read the police reports, they are totally different; the victim gave a totally different story the night this happened. These were not poor, starving people who were diving into Dumpsters to get food to eat. These men both had money on them. One had $108, and one had $402 in their pockets when they were arrested. And they weren’t diving into Dumpsters. They committed a burglary. They went into the Sweet Pea establishment. And how do we know that? Because the police officers first a concerned citizen called and reported a burglary in progress to the police department. Three police officers arrived on the scene and called the owner of the store. They asked the men what they were doing, and the defendants both said, ‘Oh, we’re just getting trash out of the Dumpster.’ That was their story: they were getting rotten vegetables and fruits out of the Dumpster. That’s what they said. Well, being good police officers as they were, they didn’t just say, ‘OK, fine, go on home. That’s what you’re telling me.’ That’s not what they did. They called the owner of the store Ms. Zambrana.
Jonathan Hieb (Sweet Pea owner): Katherine Zambrana
Roesink: Zambrana, Katherine Zambrana. She came down to the store, she looked around, and things were amiss.
Hieb: We both were down at the store. I’m Jonathan Hieb, the owner of Sweet Pea Produce, along with Katherine. We both came down to the store.
Roesink: Well, our police reports don’t indicate that you were at the store.
Hieb: Well, if we’re getting things accurate here, let’s get them accurate.
Roesink: OK, I’m going off police reports. That’s how we let me tell you what the police reports say.
Hieb: I know what they say. Go ahead though.
Roesink: They don’t say that you were there.
Hieb: I was there.
Roesink: OK. But they don’t say that.
Hieb: The bottom line was, I was there.
Roesink: OK, but it doesn’t say that you were there. It says she was there, and it says that she looked around outside and that she looked in a box of fruits and vegetables and she said: ‘These did not come from this box. These are fresh fruits and vegetables that came from inside of the store.’ And she went into the store and she said: ‘Here’s how I know they came from the store. They came from this cooler. These are the ones that came from this cooler. This sign has been knocked off. This is how I know they were in here.’ And there were other indications that led the police to believe her story that she said they came from inside the store. She made a written statement that is in the police report that she wanted this prosecuted to the full extent of the law, is what she said. She told them that. ‘This is a burglary. They were inside my store. They were stealing my produce.’ And she was extremely upset. There were some tools that were lying on the ground, and she said, ‘They were attempting to steal my tools.’ She wrote that in her written statement, because the tools had been moved from where they were. She thought they were attempting to steal those tools. This was at 8:30 at night. These people can go to a grocery store, and they can buy food. They have plenty of money. These are not poor, starving people that didn’t have anything to eat, that took some garbage and took it away. So, number one, we do not have to offer plea bargains in cases. In fact, district attorneys are getting slammed all the time in the newspapers for offering plea bargains. We ought to be taking every single case to trial, is what we ought to be doing, according to the public, because the public is at risk if we don’t take every case to trial. Well, we all know that that is not reality. We can’t take every single case to trial. So, we have certain cases that are victims’ rights cases that we have to talk to the victims in those cases, and we have to let them know what a plea offer is going to be. And that’s a good thing. And we do that in those cases. This is a property crimes case. This is not a victims’ rights case. We do not have to talk to the victim in this case. We can handle this case any way we want to handle it that we think is best for the public safety and best for the community. But that is not what we did. (Assistant District Attorney) Kerry (St. James) came up with a plea offer, one of two things: a deferred on a felony or a plead to misdemeanor. They both involved some jail time. We think jail time is a good consequence to prevent people from committing crimes in this community and keeping this community safe. And then, the owner was contacted Mr., you said, Hieb?
Roesink: Mr. Hieb was contacted by Mr. St. James, and he was told the two plea offers and
Hieb: I actually contacted him.
Roesink: OK, well I’ll let Kerry address this because I’m commenting on something I don’t know firsthand. I just know that Kerry’s told me this is what happened.
Hieb: I’m just trying to keep things straight.
Roesink: OK. Kerry can comment on his conversation with you that wasn’t necessary for him to have. He could handle this case any way he wanted to handle this case. So he contacted Mr. Hieb, and I’ll let him address
Hieb: I contacted him.
Roesink: OK, well you all I don’t know that. Kerry, do you want to address that?
St. James: I returned your phone call, Mr. Hieb.
Hieb: Yes, I left you a message and you did return it.
St. James: I contacted you.
Hieb: I made first contact, right?
St. James: Yes.
Hieb: OK. Good deal.
Roesink: You want to address that what you talked to him about?
St. James: Well, I relayed the two plea offers to you (Hieb). You had indicated you had spoken
Hieb: What did I first say? I first said I don’t agree with what you have offered them.
St. James: That’s correct. And by the end of the conversation, you did agree.
Hieb: No, I did not.
St. James: And told me, sir
Hieb: Don’t put words in my mouth.
Roesink: Let him speak, would you? And then you can have your say. Let Mr. St. James have his say.
St. James: I really have difficulties with credibility from your point of view, Mr. Hieb and Ms. Zambrana, and the reason I say that is because if the newspaper quotes correctly, ‘We did not want this’ I’m looking at a police report that quotes Ms. Zambrana saying, ‘I want to press charges all the way.’
Hieb: That is true.
St. James: I’m looking at a chief of police who says his officers saw Ms. Zambrana scream into an open police car door at these defendants for stealing from her that this was her business. That she wanted them prosecuted. I’m looking at a handwritten statement in which Ms. Zambrana says that these gentlemen the produce came from inside, and she chose to use the words ‘locked store.’ I’m looking at a handwritten statement in which she says she is the owner of Sweet Pea and would like to press charges for theft and attempt to steal her tools and urinating on her place of business. This is completely contradictory to what is coming out now.
Hieb: Well, let me explain. If you’re done, let me explain.
St. James: Well, let me just finish with what Ms. Zambrana told police that night. First off, an independent eyewitness, a citizen, called this in. And this citizen told the police this is what he saw: Two men drive up to Sweet Pea Produce and exit the car. One man urinated on the left side of the building, the other looked through the Dumpster. We’re OK up to this point. We agree.
Roesink: Well, indecent exposure, maybe.
St. James: I mean, Mr. Hieb and I agree. Ms. Zambrana and I agree. If that’s what you’re contending that this is garbage stolen out of a Dumpster. This is what the gentleman sees up until this point.
Hieb: Well, and there’s
St. James: And the independent eyewitness says that the other looked through the Dumpster. ‘I then came and saw both men walk to the left side of the back of the building’ the back of the building ‘where they looked through the fence at the interior of Sweet Pea. And then they looked over the fence. And then they appeared to jump over the fence into the Sweet Pea market. This is what Ms. Zambrana’s contending to the police when she arrives there. The officers arrived. They asked the defendants whether they saw the closed signs and knew that they weren’t supposed to be there. Both of them indicated, ‘yes,’ they did. But they said, ‘We’re not thieves.’ Having crossed over closed signs, over a wooden slatted fence. They contacted the business owner, informed her. She responded to the scene. She came and as she looked through the bag that the officers showed her, she said: ‘These all came from inside the store’ inside the store. That’s what a burglary is: entering without permission with the intent to commit a crime in this case, theft. ‘This is not old stuff. I didn’t throw this out,’ is what Ms. Zambrana told the police. The headlines in the paper read: ‘Stealing garbage out of a Dumpster.’ Your victim is saying in this case, ‘I didn’t throw this stuff out. This came from inside my store.’ (Reading from police report): ‘I walked around the rear of the store with Zambrana and showed her the trashcan. I observed the trash box of older vegetables. Ms. Zambrana said, “That fruit didn’t come from here. And even if it did, we would sell this for animal food.”‘ (Flips through pages.) Give me a second. ‘As she looked around, she surveyed the rear of the business, she noticed a tape measure and a utility knife laying on the ground next to the shed in the grassy area of the yard. She stated, “They aren’t supposed to be here, either. I put these back, next to the other tools.” They had been disturbed. She showed me a pile of other tools that she had apparently been using. The tools were on a shelf under the awning close to the building. She then walked to the front of the store and opened the front gate, which was posted closed.’ A closed sign, a large closed sign. ‘And she entered. Just prior to opening the door, she commented that the left gate’s side was ajar, and not in its original place. Inside, she immediately noticed a sign on the floor that had been knocked over’ — and the officers have photographed that sign ‘and other missing items from an open-face cooler. Zambrana indicated that the items she saw in the bag, such as cucumbers, asparagus, cherries and apricots, were located together in the same cooler. She additionally added that the brown paper bags, of which this produce was found in, are all located inside the store,’ she tells the officer, not outside the store. ‘The officers ask, “What would you to see happen today, Ms. Zambrana?” She stated, “I want to press charges all the way.”‘ This is extraordinarily unfair, how this case was reported. It paints a completely different picture of what the reality was that my office was confronted with. And that’s unfair. And I can’t imagine that the headline is going to correct this or that the story’s going to correct this. It’s too good of a headline otherwise.
Hieb: OK, so is it my turn to respond? (Pause.) Is that a yes or a no?
St. James: And I would emphasize that the morning after I got this report, the night that this happened, the next morning, I got this report come across my desk, and I called the jail to find out, is this a situation with two people that are just looking for something to eat and going through a Dumpster? And I asked the jail deputies, would you tell me how much money they had in their property, and was surprised to learn that one of them had $108 in cash in his pocket. The other one had $402 and 20 cents in his pocket. That set this case in a very different light for me. Couple with all the facts that I just read to you, coupled with Ms. Zambrana’s statement that ‘I want to press charges all the way.’ This is wrong when this happened here. Go ahead, Mr. Hieb.
Hieb: OK. All of what you said is true
St. James: But none of that appeared in the paper, did it? None of that appears in this controversy that is going on nationwide.
Hieb: I didn’t interrupt you. Calm down.
St. James: You’re right.
Hieb: I agree with Bonnie that the paper did a pretty lousy job of writing what really happened. It was loose at best. And there was a lot to be read between the lines there. The night that this happened, I was down there with Katherine. Katherine was livid. I was a little calmer because I just wanted to make sure that everything was OK. Katherine and I decided they asked us if we wanted to press charges, we said yes, because we were not sure what had been stolen out of our store. This was just as it happened. We had no idea. Now, Sweet Pea, you have to understand, we have a retail area that is locked off from our back storage area, OK? Now, the back storage area is part of Sweet Pea, there is a gate that separates that. Now let me be clear to say this: These guys did commit a crime. They committed trespassing. They chose to jump over that fence; therefore, they committed a crime. Now, on later inspection, we found that what they had taken was pig food, OK. It’s overripe produce that we put in the back for the pig farmers to come during business hours and pick up and take to their farm and feed to the pigs. Once we, the next morning, once we did, that night and the next morning, we did a thorough inspection of the store, we figured out that I don’t think these guys got inside the store, because there would have been some something. There would have been some noticeable entry. All they took was pig food. Now, once we found this out, we decided to say, ‘OK. We’re clear we don’t want to have anything to do with this.’ And this was the conversation that I had with you (St. James) on the phone. I said, ‘Look, I don’t agree with what you’re offering these guys.’ And you interrupted me and basically went on a personal speech on what you thought was going on. And you said, verbatim, ‘I’m going to make an example out of these guys.’
St. James: I said, ‘I’m going to send a message to the community.’
Roesink: Are you done?
Hieb: No, I’m not. So, in saying that, I did relate to you that we didn’t want them to get jail time and/or a felony. I said I thought community service, an apology, hey, come over to Sweet Pea and give us 10 hours worth of work, you know. That’ll be plenty. These guys were not there to steal money. I truly believe what they thought they were doing was OK, other than the fact of trespassing. That’s a choice they made, and it was a bad choice. And they need some kind of punishment for that. Not jail time. Not a felony. Or either/or. What has happened to this is that Sweet Pea has become the victim. Saturday, we had over a hundred phone calls, some of them very threatening. My manager, Cory, started to cry over one phone call. Luckily, I was able to call that guy back because we got his number. I stayed up until 4 o’clock Saturday morning answering and responding to blogs, trying to get our story across. The only thing we’re guilty of is operating a business, and working 90 hours a week during the summer. That produce down there does not come in on a truck. I go to Grand Junction three times a week to get it and bring it here. Katherine Zambrana’s reputation will not be ruined over this, I can promise you that. She has done nothing but good. She works her butt off. I am so lucky to have her as a business partner, it’s not even funny, much less, a girlfriend, who I love very much. And will not be ruined over this. She has been in town for 12 years. She was a professional athlete for eight of those years, one of the top-notch athletes in this nation in mountain biking. And she works so hard. She has put all that energy from her athletic endeavors into this store. And she does not need to be ruined over this. She wished she could be here right now, but she’s very you have to understand, Katherine is very nervous in crowds. She’s very careful about what she’s saying, she doesn’t want to say the wrong thing. She is not sleeping well, she’s not eating well right now because of this whole thing. And I’m trying my hardest to figure out why we have become the victims in this. I’m really trying. And partly, it’s because of the news article. But you guys cannot come out and put this on her or on me. I stated very clearly to you on the phone that we did not agree with these charges. And you said, ‘I’m going to send a message’ or ‘make an example.’ I’m pretty certain I heard you say ‘make an example.’ I can’t prove that to a T, but I’m fairly certain. Either way, you were saying, you were going on a personal vendetta and telling me, basically, what I had to say didn’t matter. You were going to prosecute these people to the fullest extent, after I said we didn’t agree with it. Now, that is how it happened.
St. James: To the fullest extent would have been pursuing felony burglary charges. Obviously, that didn’t happen.
Hieb: But you know I didn’t agree with that anything you had to offer them.
St. James: The amazing thing to me is you’ve never once said in this conversation today, ‘I went and told the police this produce didn’t come from the inside of my store. I went and told the police that the brown bags, however they got outside, when they’re only kept inside the store, I can’t explain that to the police.’
Hieb: Because I related that to you. I related to you that all they did was jump the fence and take pig food.
St. James: I disagree with that, sir. I think you had an obligation
Hieb: So among all this other stuff that you’re doing, and the mistakes that you’ve already made, now you’re calling me a liar? Is that what you’re doing?
St. James: I’m saying we disagree as to that conversation.
Hieb: You know, right now, I think, this is just my two cents. It’s probably worth nothing. But right now, what you need to do, as a man, is take responsibility for your actions.
St. James: I’m sorry. I can’t do that.
Hieb: Don’t push them off on some female who is torn up about this.
St. James: I’m holding this (police report) in my hand, what she told the police that night.
Hieb: Yes, and we did. We agree to the whole thing the night of. We have never said one time that we didn’t want to press charges initially. We have the right to change our minds. Once we figured out what really happened
Police Det. Capt. Bob Del Valle: Let me just make a statement here since the police department lit the fuse on this whole case, and I’m from the police department. This reaction doesn’t surprise me. Law enforcement deals with this, actually, kind of regularly, these knee-jerk reactions to poorly written newspaper articles that are not based on factual information. And unfortunately, we usually face the brunt of this, so we’re kind of immune to this kind of response. What I will say is, is that, Gary Wall even in this paper article said that this is an embarrassment to the community. I find is an embarrassment is that only one person called us and asked for the facts. Nobody called but one person. But the reaction was, ‘This is awful, what’s been done to these two guys.’ Now, if you base it on the newspaper article, you’re right. I think it would be awful. But that’s not the case. This was a felony burglary. They entered the store. The factual basis is there. The evidence was supported by the owner, Ms. Zambrana. And nobody is blaming her. She just did what any owner should do, and that was the right thing. She wanted to press charges. Why Mr. Hieb wasn’t mentioned in the report, I don’t know. Maybe Ms. Zambrana took kind of the lead in this thing and that’s how it all worked out. And maybe there was a dispute about how that was done. But I guess what I’m concerned about is that either Mr. Hieb is not telling the truth or the Pilot isn’t. It says when police gave Hieb and Zambrana paperwork to fill out and offer their side of what happened, Hieb and Zambrana declined and said they did not want to press charges. Well, that’s clearly been disputed by the written statement, in her own handwriting, by Ms. Zambrana. So, either, somebody is not accurate in reporting or saying what the facts were that night. But that happens, and we understand that, sometimes people make mistakes.
Hieb: If I could interject real quick. I think, I’m trying my hardest to make this as clear as possible. Katherine Zambrana and I, both, initially, the night of it, wanted to press charges, because we didn’t know what extent of the burglary it I mean, what had been taken? We had no idea.
Del Valle: But when you did find out, how much time had elapsed before you talked to Kerry St. James?
Hieb: Well, what we did initially was, paperwork was sent to us to fill out, and we declined to fill out the paperwork, because we didn’t want to press charges. And then when I talked to him
Roesink: That’s the paperwork you fill out to say, ‘We don’t want to press charges’ the victim witness statement. Or there’s a special form in the District Attorney’s Office. You come in and you fill it out in writing, and that’s what you do when you don’t want to press charges.
Hieb: Then I’ll tell you, if I made the mistake by not filling it out, thinking that was my purpose, of not pressing charges, that’s my mistake. I apologize, and I take responsibility for it. I thought by not filling it out and not sending it in, meant that we weren’t pressing charges. And if that’s my mistake, I apologize, and I’ll take responsibility for that. I don’t have a problem with that.
Del Valle: I think that’s good, but let me ask you the question I’ve asked you before. How much time elapsed between the time that you had the conversation with Mr. St. James and the time that the burglary occurred?
Hieb: I don’t know the exact time. I’m going to say probably a few weeks. It was when (Wayne) Westphale, their attorney called me, and he’s the one that notified me what they were being charged with. And he said, would you be willing to talk to Mr. St. James on these guys’ behalf? And I said, I’ll tell you what, I don’t agree with a felony or jail time or any of this, so I’d be more than happy to call him and let him know that from our point of view, Katherine Zambrana and me and Sweet Pea, we don’t want to see these guys get a felony, which would be on the record for the rest of their lives, or do jail time. I said, I tried to say, to Mr. St. James, that community service, 10, 20 hours of community service would be appropriate. I could not get that out.
Roesink: Why didn’t you come to court and tell the judge? The judge could have rejected this plea agreement. Judges reject plea agreements all the time. Why didn’t you come to court and say that?
Del Valle: I guess the question I have is, and I’m really trying to get my question answered, is you said about three weeks. The law enforcement community bases their decisions on what people tell us. And when an owner who has information that could change the course of an investigation chooses not to do that
Del Valle: That was three or four weeks later. You should have called us the next day, and said, ‘You know what? We learned that they didn’t take stuff from within the building.’ Now, that was probably, maybe a choice you guys made because you didn’t want to see these guys charged. But your partner, and I don’t know what your relationship is, the evidence is clear that they were inside the building, based on the fact that the food came from in the building, the tools came from within the building. That’s a burglary.
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