The decision to request a personal recognizance bond (PR bond) by the District Attorney’s Office of the 14th Judicial District in the case involving Lucas Paul Ackerman, 33, of Grand Lake, was “very unusual,” according to H. Patrick Furman, a clinical professor of law emeritus at University of Colorado’s School of Law.
Furman has been practicing criminal defense in Colorado for 30 years and has been teaching criminal defense for 20 years and believes the difference between what the District Attorney’s office and the judge in the case believed to be an appropriate bail for Ackerman was “massively different,” he said. “There must be something unusual that we don’t know about for a district attorney to modify a bond to personal recognizance,” Furman said.
The request to modify Ackerman’s bail to a PR bond, which essentially means Ackerman would not have been obligated to pay any bail if he showed up to his next scheduled court appearance in 30 days or until a grand jury is convened and has completed its investigation of the case, came during his second appearance before Judge Mary Hoak in 14th Judicial District Court in Hot Sulphur Springs on July 9.
During Ackerman’s first appearance in court, District Attorney Brett Barkey requested his bail be doubled from $20,000 to $40,000 because he believed the case to be an “aggravated case” due to the number of victims involved and Ackerman’s criminal record.
The motion by Assistant District Attorney Han Ng to reduce Ackerman’s bail to essentially nothing was struck down by Judge Hoak, as was a request by Ackerman’s attorney, Jack Dicola, to reduce his bail to $20,000.
“I’m not on board with reducing the bond,” Judge Hoak had said. Hoak commented the charges the man is facing are serious and are the kind of charges people will skip town on. The decision to request a PR bond was without support of the victims’ family, according to Ng, who said the family wanted Ackerman to remain in custody for public safety reasons.
The Sky-Hi News tried several times to contact the district attorney and assistant district attorney for further comment on the case, but calls and emails were not returned by press time for this story.
Ackerman bailed out of jail at 7 p.m. following his second appearance in Grand County District Court.
It was during Ackerman’s second court appearance that the District Attorney’s office announced it was going to bring the case in front of a grand jury to decide what charges, if any, should be filed against the man, a decision Furman does not see as unusual.
A grand jury is made up of citizens from across the 14th Judicial District, who have the power to complete investigations, request evidence, and subpoena witnesses. Grand juries are used for a number of reasons including allowing members of the community to weigh in on a case, or can be used to utilize investigative powers such as subpoenaing witnesses who are unwilling to speak to police, according to Furman.
Ng attributed the decision to convene a grand jury for having a “colorable defense,” he said last week. “The continued investigation has caused a question of whether there is a defense.”
Ackerman was arrested and booked into Grand County Jail on July 4, in connection with an accident that took place in Grand Lake where the truck he was driving hit and killed one pedestrian and sent four others, including a 3 year-old, to Denver area hospitals with serious bodily injuries.
Ackerman’s blood alcohol content the night of the accident was allegedly 0.156, three times the BAC content for a DWAI (driving while ability impaired) and nearly twice the limit for a DUI (driving under the influence).
The investigation is ongoing and grand jury proceedings are kept secret until an indictment is filed. If the grand jury decides to indict Ackerman, the District Attorney’s office will pursue those charges and will need to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused is guilty.
Reid Tulley can be reached at 970-887-3334