A judge sentenced an Aurora man Thursday to two years in prison for helping five detainees escape the Robert E. DeNier Youth Service Center, a youth detention center in Durango that closed last year.
Antonio Kolessar, 21, faced five counts of aiding escape and one count of vehicular eluding for cutting the fence at the juvenile detention center and serving as the getaway driver for five boys being held there.
Public defense attorney Annie Woods argued that Kolessar was coerced into his actions by his co-defendant, Quinton Green, one of the escapees, who was sentenced to two years prison.
Woods said Green called Kolessar last year and told him that staff at the detention center were abusing detainees. That’s why the Aurora man drove from the Front Range to Durango to break Green out, Woods argued.
“The court has the ability to put this man on two paths,” Woods said of Kolessar. “The path to redemption or the path to the Department of Corrections.”
Deputy District Attorney Rob Barlow said Kolessar’s behavior is not rehabilitative, and a short prison stint is what he needs.
“When someone breaks someone out of a correctional facility, that person should be in a correctional facility,” Barlow said.
Kolessar, who was already in custody, made no statement to the court before sentencing.
Judge Suzanne Carlson said she empathized with Kolessar’s reason for helping the detainees escape, but she said it would be “offensive” to give Kolessar probation. Green received two years for escape, and not giving the same sentence to someone who helped him break out would not be equal treatment under the law, she said.
Carlson toyed with the idea of giving Kolessar a community corrections sentencing, such as a halfway house like Hilltop House, but the director of the facility recommended Kolessar would not be a good fit.
“Easily manipulated was more of the thing,” Carlson said of Kolessar. “I think Quinton Green was more driving the train in this one. I think, at this point, I’m going to sentence him to prison.”