Chatting with David Siller and Giles Charle
David Siller and Giles Charle were released from Routt County Jail on Wednesday evening. The men were sentenced to six months in jail for taking produce from Sweet Pea Produce, but their sentence was reduced to time served after their story caused public outcry across the country.
Q: Several readers have said that a jury would not have convicted you of a felony. Could you comment on the advice you received and what ultimately led you to accept a plea agreement?
David Siller: It was a difficult decision, and facing it last week was overwhelming. However, with advice from several lawyers that we had the possibility of loosing a felony if we went to trial, we decided to take option No. 2 – the plea agreement, which was for six months in jail. Realistically, based on the facts of this case, a jury might have thrown this case out. However, our lawyers advised us that (Assistant District Attorney) Kerry St. James might try to get us on a felony. Under Colorado law, trespassing and leaving with anything from the property, even if it is “trash,” is a felony.
Q: Did Kerry St. James lie about your actions?
Siller: I do not think he lied about our actions. He originally prosecuted us based on what the police reports said, because that is all he had to go off. And unfortunately, the police reports did not reflect what occurred that evening.
Q: What happened on the night of June 26? What did you take and where did you take it from?
Siller: I’m not going to write an essay about this one, because it’s been stated many times in the newspaper. But I will fill in a couple points. What happened? We had the beginning of the most unique summer experience resulting from a temporary slip of judgment, which at the time felt fine. What did we take? Food from a box in the rear of the store than was next to a trash can. It was definitely trash because most of it was going bad, but a few items were salvageable. We decided to take it because we could possibly use it or donate it at the Rainbow gathering.
Q: Will you two every come back to Steamboat? Will you ever recommend that someone visit Steamboat?
Giles Charle: I’ll come back to Steamboat. I wasn’t feeling too good about being here when I was forced to. But this town has come through huge to help us out and turn around this injustice. I’m lovin’ you guys.
Siller: Right now, I just want to go home and hug my family and friends. I’d like to see if I get back the job teaching children Environmental Education that I was supposed to begin in mid-July, when I was originally planning on returning home. As for Steamboat Springs, it sure it beautiful here and I would love to see it in the snow and try skiing on the mountain. Other than this criminal case, our stay in the town has been really nice. Steamboat has a lot to offer. I don’t think anybody should not visit this city because of the District Attorney or what occurred in our court case. I would recommend, just like visiting any new place, to be careful. You never know what the laws are or who could be pissed off that you are there. This is especially true for a Rainbow gathering.
Q: How about revealing your character for people by taking responsibility and apologizing for your actions, which were at least thoughtless and rude – and caused a huge hassle for the Sweet Pea owners?
Siller: What we did was wrong, and we have accepted a misdemeanor for it. I’ve definitely learned many lessons from this whole thing, and while today is a great day, it is not the end of how this will affect me in the future. I am glad I can begin picking up the pieces now and not in three months time.
Charle: We trespassed on Sweet Pea property. We committed a crime. I am very sorry for all that Mr. Hieb and Mrs. Zambrano have been through. I am looking forward to visiting them and thanking them for all they have done to help the community understand the truth of this case, which is that we did not have any intention of taking anything of value from them.
Q: Can you be specific about what you meant when you said that the publicity of your case made your stay in jail harder?
Siller: Let me tell you about jail. With 108 days ahead of us, we tried to settle in to a routine of a lot of Yoga, meditation, reading books, playing chess, writing letters and chatting. While this is difficult to do all day long, we were beginning to settle in because we really thought we had no chance of getting out. With the publicity, it just made our focus in these endeavors more difficult. I kept on wondering if this publicity was going to change the ADA’s plea bargain. Why wouldn’t it? The feeling on this issue kept on changing dramatically from slightly possible to ‘Why not?’ to the ADA saying justice was served to the final visit from our lawyer saying that he changed the plea agreement.
Charle: Mostly it was great. It was great to know that people were thinking about us and finally understanding that we were not deserving of such a harsh punishment. But it did make it hard to settle in to life in jail, because we had hopes of getting out. It is pretty crucial to settle in when you are faced with being in for a few months
Q: Do you think that you would have gotten out with out so much public outcry?
Siller: We would have been in there for the long haul without this publicity. I am so thankful the truth came out.
Charle: The media attention and public outcry was our only hope of getting out.
Q: If you had money between the two of you, why go for rotten fruit in the garbage?
Charle: Why prepare more food when you got perfectly good leftovers in the fridge?
Siller: Gas is expensive these days. The Rainbow gathering was free, and I was bringing a lot of food donations that I had brought with me from Philadelphia. Getting the fruit from the Dumpster is just a personal practice of bringing what someone might call waste out of the trash and finding a use for it. Have you seen some of the things that people throw out in this country? If you haven’t looked, it’s worth it. You might find something you like.
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Seminars at Steamboat’s 19th summer season of nonpartisan policy discussions continues with a virtual talk by Maya MacGuineas, president of the bipartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.