Who is the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition?

Our mission is to reverse the trend of mass incarceration in Colorado. We are a coalition of nearly 7,000 individual members and over 100 faith and community organizations who have united to stop perpetual prison expansion in Colorado through policy and sentence reform.

Our chief areas of interest include drug policy reform, women in prison, racial injustice, the impact of incarceration on children and families, the problems associated with re-entry and stopping the practice of using private prisons in our state.

If you would like to be involved please go to our website and become a member.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Convicted killer who lived as fugitive for decades faces long prison sentence - The Denver Post

Convicted killer who lived as fugitive for decades faces long prison sentence - The Denver Post

STERLING — For 32 years, Colorado officials took few steps to capture convicted killer Robert Charles Johnson, who escaped the Cañon City prison in 1975.

They filed, but didn't pursue, an escape charge against him. He traveled across the country and spent decades working as a river-rafting guide. Even a 1990 California arrest wasn't enough to get Colorado prison officials or prosecutors interested in chasing him down.

That changed in 2005 after the Department of Corrections created a cold-case fugitive unit. Within two years, Johnson was back behind bars.

Now Johnson, 60, faces more time in prison for his escape than he ever would have served for the original murder charge — and he still has as many as 10 years or so left to serve for that.

In an interview from Sterling Correctional Facility, he said he fears his golden years will be consumed behind bars even though he says he has lived a model life for decades.

Fremont County District Attorney Thom LeDoux said there has to be a penalty for escape regardless of how well someone behaves after fleeing — or there would be no deterrent.

"If you get a light sentence on a homicide case, it doesn't necessarily mean you'll get a light sentence on an escape charge," LeDoux said.

Johnson said his troubles began in the fall of 1972 when he took a trip out of town to coincide with the arrival of his mother-in-law from Italy. He hitchhiked from California to visit a high school friend who lived in Manitou Springs.

In Colorado Springs, he got a ride from Mi chael A. Lucas, 23. While they were driving into the mountains, he said, Lucas pulled off on a side road and grabbed his crotch. Johnson said he grabbed the steering wheel and swerved the car into a ditch while Lucas slammed on the brakes.

Johnson said Lucas pulled out a handgun, and Johnson wrestled it away. He began firing the .38-caliber weapon.

"I just kept shooting the gun until it went click, click, click," he said.

Lucas was struck twice in the head and once in the chest. "I panicked," Johnson said. "It happened so fast, it was kind of like a blur."

A year later, he was caught while living in New Mexico. Johnson said he believed it was self-defense but that his public defenders talked him into pleading guilty to second-degree murder in a deal in which he got the minimum sentence of 10 to 15 years in prison. He could have gotten out in eight years with sentence reductions for good time.

The warden at the Fremont prison in Cañon City told him Lucas' family had put a $5,000 bounty on his head, he said.

Johnson said a guard, of all people, was the first to suggest he escape. The guard, who believed Johnson had been railroaded into prison, told him that unless he ran, he would likely be murdered because of the contract, he said.

In 1975, two years after Johnson's conviction, the guard drove him past the prison fence to the banks of the Arkansas River and let him go.

"Every day, I thank him for saving my life," Johnson said of the guard.

DOC officials say personnel records from that era have been purged, so they have no records of the guard Johnson named. The Denver Post was unable to locate him.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Is this the DOC behaving like Ronald Reagan...I do not recall? True morons run the prison system.