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Man suspected of animal abuse, jail escape foregoes sentencing hearing

Barrett-Lesko pleaded guilty to felony burglary, possession of burglary tools

Jonah Barrett-Lesko, the man accused of an ever-growing list of crimes, most notably sexual intercourse with a horse and escape from the La Plata County Jail, postponed his sentencing hearing Friday in 6th Judicial District Court to give his Durango defense attorney more time to sort through his legal challenges.

Barrett-Lesko, 25, pleaded guilty last month to felony burglary and possession of burglary tools. It was part of a plea agreement he struck with the 6th Judicial District Attorney’s Office in return for dismissing other charges, including animal cruelty for the June 17 horse incident at the La Plata County Fairgrounds.

Based on terms of the plea agreement, Barrett-Lesko faces anything from probation to five years in prison. Prosecutors and his defense lawyer stipulated to a community corrections sentence as long as Barrett-Lesko could be accepted into the program, which allows criminal offenders to live in a halfway house in the community while maintaining a job.

But since his guilty plea, Barrett-Lesko has been arrested at least twice: once on suspicion of attempted car theft and once in connection with escaping from the jail, which occurred Tuesday.

Durango Police Chief Bob Brammer pursues Jonah Barrett-Lesko on Tuesday in the Animas River at Santa Rita Park after he escaped from the La Plata County Jail. (Jerry McBride/Durnago Herald file)

The community corrections program refused to screen Barrett-Lesko, leaving him exposed to either probation or a prison sentence.

Barrett-Lesko said he wanted to proceed with Friday’s sentencing hearing, but about halfway through the hearing, Judge Todd Norvell said he has no intention of giving Barrett-Lesko probation and offered him and his defense attorney more time to evaluate their options.

Before the postponement, Deputy District Attorney Reid Stewart asked that Barrett-Lesko be sentenced to the maximum allowed under terms of the plea agreement. His attorney, Christian Hatfield, asked for probation, saying Barrett-Lesko had a “nearly nonexistent criminal history” until recently.

That is when Norvell said he has no intention of sentencing Barrett-Lesko to probation.

A new sentencing hearing was set for 8 a.m. Oct. 8.


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