FREMONT COUNTY, Colo. - The 11th Judicial District Court admitted Monday it made a mistake that let accused murderer Evan Ebel out of prison four years too soon.
"The court regrets this oversight and extends condolences to the families of Mr. Nathan Leon and Mr. Tom Clements," Chief Judge Charles Barton and District Administrator Walter Blair said in a statement.
Ebel is accused of murdering Clements, Colorado's prison chief and Leon, a pizza delivery driver from Denver after getting out of prison early. Ebel died after a shootout with Texas authorities.
Ebel was already in prison serving an eight-year sentence for assault when he punched a guard. He was supposed to serve an additional four years for that assault.
At sentencing, Judge David Thorson didn't specify that four years was supposed to be consecutive, or in addition, to what Ebel was already serving. Therefore the judicial assistant made no note of it.
"The judge announced a sentence of four years in the Department of Corrections, but did not state it was consecutive because it was already required by the terms of the plea agreement," said the court's statement. "Because the judge did not expressly state that the sentence was consecutive, the court judicial assistant did not include that term in the mittimus, the sentence order that went to the Department of Corrections."
11th Judicial District Attorney Thom LeDoux said his office wasn't aware before now that if a judge doesn't specify a consecutive sentence, the Department of Corrections assumes the sentence to be concurrent. Concurrent sentencing allows sentences for more than one crime to be served at the same time.
"We will certainly be notifying all of the deputy district attorneys to make sure if there is a concurrent or consecutive designation that needs to be placed on a particular sentence, that the court is doing that and making sure it gets transferred to the sentencing notice," said LeDoux.
He calls what happened in the Ebel case "disappointing," but says he doesn't believe the mistake is part of a bigger problem.
"We don't have any concerns about the competence of the court system or the clerks office in this area," he said. "We think it's a single, isolated incident."
LeDoux said he's now working to make sure no other offenders got off easy due to errors.
"I've offered to work with the chief judge and head clerk in the 11th judicial district to conduct a review of cases to make sure this isn't something that's happened in any other cases," LeDoux said.