SAN LUIS — The state has few options regarding accused arsonist Jesper Joergensen, but trial reportedly isn’t among them due to his diagnosed mental illness. His attorney had asked that charges be dropped so Joergensen, 54, could be sent “home.”
Following a Feb. 12 virtual hearing, District Judge Gregory Lyman did not reach a judgment after learning that International Customs and Enforcement (ICE) won’t deport Joergensen to Denmark and he is not a candidate for release into the community. A hearing was set for 10 a.m. March 8.
Joergensen has been in the United States since overstaying his visa several years ago and it was believed at the time of his arrest and assumed until this year that there was an immigration hold on him and he would be deported as soon as the U.S. charges were satisfied.
Joergensen, charged with 349 counts of arson in Costilla and Huerfano counties, has been held in jail for more than 900 days. He is accused of setting a wildfire that burned more than 108,000 acres in both counties and destroying more than 141 homes and businesses.
He has been diagnosed with a delusional disorder that seven psychiatrists and several other experts told attorneys and the court render him unable to participate in a trial and express doubts he will ever recover.
Joergensen’s camper was one of the homes lost during the June 2018 fire. He is homeless, and his attorneys state, of no interest to ICE.
Court-appointed defense attorney Jane Fisher-Byrialsin said Friday numerous attempts to communicate with ICE were unsuccessful.
Fisher-Byrialsin said, “the treating physician said nothing has changed, there is nothing new.” Joergensen, according to his attorney, is still delusional and in a state of mental illness, isn’t improving. His attorney reported that he won’t take his medication and resists moving to another location. He has been in the RICE Program for rehabilitation of inmates at Arapahoe County.
Lyman said, “All of us, in good faith, believed Mr. Joergensen would be returned — would be taken by ICE to Denmark. If I release Mr. Joergensen, he would be sent to the community with no restrictions.”
Judge Lyman said he is not comfortable with that, but “the court cannot involve itself in immigration issues.”
Lyman said the law doesn’t set the length of time a person can be held.
“I found probable cause that Joergensen would be held in custody (awaiting trial) and I won’t change that,” Lyman said. He ordered Joergensen to be admitted to the Colorado Mental Health Institute (CMHIP) in Pueblo as soon as possible. The facility was not taking new patients due to the pandemic, but has resumed admissions, attorneys said.
He just can’t be let go Deputy District Attorney Cynthia Kowert told the judge.
“It is ridiculous to think what could happen with him not in custody,” she said.
Reading the names of those persons who had written letters or made statements, Lyman said he wanted to hear from more owners of the homes that were destroyed in the Spring Creek Fire before making a final ruling in the matter.