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Charlie Sheen's lack of charges: Only in Aspen?

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Last time I checked, Aspen was still nominally associated with the rest of Colorado. But its legal system sometimes has about as much to do with what happens elsewhere in the state as, well, the microstate of Liechtenstein has to do with Madagascar--not much.

And that's plenty of reason for Carlos Irwin Estevez, known to millions as Charlie Sheen, to be counting his blessings. His Christmas Day arrest for allegedly threatening and assaulting wife Brooke Mueller would appear to be serious business in a state that revolutionized domestic violence prosecutions two decades ago--except that it happened in Aspen.

Concerned that batterers were getting off easy because their crimes were regarded as mere domestic spats, a coalition of reformers managed to push through a range of get-tough laws in the 1980s, requiring mandatory arrest and treatment. When cops arrived at Sheen's downtown Aspen residence Christmas day in response to a frantic 911 call, they found Mueller with marks on her neck; she said that Sheen had held a knife to her throat and threatened her life.

An arrest is mandatory in such situations--in fact, in situations with much less evidence. (Anyone remember Patrick Roy's attack on a door?) And Aspen cops followed the letter of DV laws by taking Sheen down to the Pitkin County jail.

But Sheen bonded out ten hours later. And no charges have been filed yet. The case could still end up being a heavy one--this Post article mentions possible felony menacing and assault charges--but you have to wonder about how the tug of celebrity may have altered the process in Aspen. In other jurisdictions, alleged domestic violence perps end up with a mandatory "cooling off" night in jail before they can bond out, then a rush through a court process that requires 36 weeks of counseling sessions as part of the usual plea bargain, and a lot of other penalties.

Even if the alleged crimes are misdemeanors, not the sort of felonies Sheen might be charged with.

The rich, it seems, are different from you and me. They go to Aspen and avoid the rush to judgment. Good news for Claudine Longet--and maybe for Charlie Sheen.

For more on how DV laws work (and don't work) in the rest of the state, see our award-winning series "A Shock to the System."

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