ALAMOSA — On Wednesday, March 9, two days before his next scheduled court appearance, District Attorney Alonzo Payne dismissed the case against Jesper Joergensen, charged with 141 counts of arson in connection with the Spring Creek fire that burned roughly 156 square miles and destroyed 149 structures. The decision was announced in a public service announcement sent to the Courier.
On Thursday, March 10, less than 24 hours later, Payne released a second public service announcement, stating he had reinstated the charges due to what appears to be a complication with a federal law enforcement agency.
Payne’s stated reasons for dismissal of the case included “an inability to prove the case beyond a reasonable cause” and related to Joergensen, 55, and in the country illegally after overstaying his visa, being declared incompetent to stand trial shortly after his arrest.
Joergensen was subsequently transferred to the Colorado State Hospital where he was diagnosed with a mental illness, but, according to his attorneys, refused treatment as, due to the nature of his disorder, he believes he is not suffering from any illness.
In 2021, a psychiatrist recommended that Joergensen be forcibly medicated, which could pave the way for him to be declared competent and capable to stand trial.
However, it was determined that, while being forcibly medicated in the state hospital may improve Joergensen’s mental illness, there are significant challenges with continuing to deliver that same medical treatment if and when Joergensen would be transported to jail.
As stated in the Wednesday’s public service announcement from Payne, Joergensen has “been found incompetent to procced on multiple occasions throughout the course of this case, and the Costilla County Sheriff’s Office does not have the resources, manpower and cannot bear the burden to restore Jesper Joergensen to competency through forced medication.”
At that time, the district attorney went on to say that his office was “working with Homeland Security to place Joergensen in their custody as we believe he is a threat to the community and to himself” and his office “had coordinated with the U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement (ICE) for a smooth transition with Mr. Joergensen following his hearing in court.”
Payne’s announcement of the reinstatement of charges provided more details, including stating the dismissal of charges had been on the condition that Joergensen would be placed in ICE custody, transferred to a facility out of state and evaluated for deportation.
However, Payne stated he had been notified that afternoon that ICE was unable to take Joergensen into custody, which prompted Payne’s reinstatement of charges.