A Bayfield man was sentenced Wednesday to five years in prison and ordered to pay $160,589 in restitution for two strings of burglaries he committed last year in Durango.
Tyler Owen James, 37, was seeking a screening for community corrections, but he has a felony larceny case pending in New Mexico that prevents him from being screened.
James’ only other options were prison or probation. Deputy District Attorney-Appellate Sean Murray strongly opposed a probationary sentence.
Murray pointed to the financial damages incurred by James’ burglary spree in downtown Durango in March 2021, in which he rampaged through several businesses on the east side of the 600 block on Main Avenue and caused tens of thousands of dollars in damages.
Businesses vandalized included Ken & Sue’s, the Durango Rec Room, Cloud 9 Head Shop and a vacant space adjacent to the Balcony Bar & Grill.
In another burglary spree, this time in the Shenandoah subdivision southwest of Durango in December, police caught James stealing a motorcycle from resident Gary Bilyk. During a traffic stop, James abandoned the motorcycle and fled into the woods where he was found and arrested without incident.
James had also stolen a vehicle from resident Steven Christopher Tasevoli during the same spree; he stole a debit card belonging to Bilyk and had taken several items from another residence, according to an arrest affidavit.
“He was caught red-handed,” Murray said. “Literally. He had blood on his hands. And he was caught in the businesses.”
A probationary sentence would be “jeopardizing community safety,” he said. Murray requested five years in prison, the maximum allowed under terms of the plea agreement.
Restitution for one victim was listed at $145,932, Murray said.
“For the people, this is something that mandates a DOC (Department of Corrections) sentence,” he said. “Especially given the fact that he has cases in New Mexico (and) Weld County. I don’t think that it’s appropriate, given all of the damages and all of the victims, to put him on probation.”
Sixth Judicial District Judge Suzanne Carlson said community corrections was more appropriate than probation.
Carlson said community corrections can be beneficial for convicts with substance abuse issues and who must pay back restitution. Should James’ other cases be sorted out and he become eligible for community corrections screening, the judge said she would be open to reconsidering James’ sentence.
“I don’t think probation is appropriate,” Carlson said. “We just don’t know what’s going to happen here. The extensive amount of damages, the sort of number of cases here, all of it does point to, I think, either prison or a community corrections sentence.”
Carlson granted James a total of 580 days credit for presentence confinement.
James agreed to pay $149,932 in restitution to RYZE Claim Solution. He owes $6,285 to Progressive Insurance and $1,000 to Alexander James Mickel, plus another $1,000 to Four Corners Community Bank, among others, according to his plea agreement.