Riot and Wrong

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"Last year we had a couple thousand people saying 'fuck you' to the establishment for some unknown reason other than they wanted to have a good time. It was a real shove-it-up-your-ass attitude, and it affected morale up here more than anything I've seen. A lot of people should have been arrested, but we only got a small percentage."

Even Boyce's attorney is confounded by the students' actions last May. "They reminded me of the rioting I saw about Vietnam and Cambodia," says Lamm. "But those riots were about something. These kids got no sympathy from 90 percent of the population because they were rioting for their unalienable right to party on. There was no principle involved. Some of the kids may say that the Boulder cops' alcohol busts were overkill, but there's no way you can compare that to napalming peasant villages. There's a quantifiable difference."

Not only were Boulder officials confused as to why the kids turned so violent, but they were also concerned about how to dole out appropriate punishment to the students who were caught, the majority of whom had been law-abiding until the riots.

"We're dealing with kids who committed extraordinarily serious crimes against society," says Pickering. "But on the other hand, you take these kids out of that mob environment and they're future doctors or lawyers--guys you buy your stocks from. What I had to do in all these cases was punish these kids appropriately and harshly in the short term while not ruining their lives in the long run."

So while Pickering is still pissed about the one who got away, he's also concerned about how the one he did put away is going to cope with his jail time.

As a reporter leaves Pickering's office, the DA calls after him. "Hey," he says softly from the doorway of his office, "when you see Alex, tell him I said hello."

So far, the strangest thing about jail for Alex Boyce has been observing his fellow inmates' TV habits. "That's the thing that tripped me out the most," says Boyce. "Every afternoon the place hushes down for Blossom. Cops is a close second."

The blue-eyed 21-year-old is in his second month of a two-year stint, and he says his biggest hangup at the moment is whether or not to let an MTV camera crew interview him for a special about last year's riots. Naturally, Boyce is a little wary of television cameras these days.

"When I saw myself on video," he says, "it was like an 'I can't believe that's me' reaction. But there I was, throwing rocks and stuff. With all those pictures in the paper and on TV, people were coming up to my friends in disbelief saying, 'You know that guy?'"

The images that the public saw of Boyce during the riots--a guy wearing a ten-gallon cowboy hat, dancing among flames and tossing bottles--is a far cry from the composed young man now wearing Boulder County Jail whites about four inches long in the leg. He banters easily with his guards, who joke with him about how many girls come to visit him and how much mail he receives from his friends. But when asked about the riots, Boyce gets serious.

"The scariest day of my life was my sentencing date on February 10," he recalls. "Being in the courtroom, the reality of it, was so overwhelming. So surreal. Especially when the judge started talking about deterrence and how he had to set an example. When he said two years, the tears just started rolling down my face. That was rock bottom, and it's gotten steadily better."

Part of his positive attitude, he says, comes from the man who put him away.
"Throughout the nine months between the riot and the sentencing, Pickering was the enemy in my mind," says Boyce. "But I was able to meet face-to-face with him before I came here and let him know that I don't hold any grudge against him. I accept responsibility for what I did, and I understand that he had a job to do. His job was to prosecute my case, and he did it well. I think he's a good guy. I'll admit that it's a pretty strange way to talk about your prosecutor, but that's the way I feel. One thing he said to me before I came in here really stuck in my head. It was something to the effect that I could either sit in a corner and suck on my thumb or face up to what I did like a man. That pretty much summed it up. He said I owed it to myself to make the best out of this situation."

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Tony Perez-Giese