Charges for Dane in Colorado wildfire will likely be dropped

FILE - This undated file photo released by the Costilla County, Colo., Sheriff's Office shows Jesper Joergensen. A prosecutor says criminal charges will probably be dropped against the mentally ill Danish man accused of starting the large 2018 Colorado wildfire. District Attorney Alonzo Payne didn't elaborate about his reasoning during a court hearing for Joergensen on Monday Feb. 14, 2022. (Costilla County Sheriff's Office via AP, File) (Uncredited, Costilla County Sheriff's Office)

DENVER – Criminal charges will probably be dropped against a mentally ill Danish man accused of starting a large 2018 Colorado wildfire, who can no longer be forcibly medicated, a prosecutor said Monday.

District Attorney Alonzo Payne made the comment without elaborating on the reasons during a court hearing to discuss the case against Jesper Joergensen, who has repeatedly been found mentally incompetent to stand trial.

Payne suggested that he would like Joergensen, who was in the U.S. illegally when he was charged with starting the fire that destroyed over 140 homes in southern Colorado, to be deported.

“We do believe ICE custody is going to be the next step here,” said Payne, who said prosecutors must still contact victims of the fire for required consultations.

Payne did not return a telephone message seeking additional comment.

Judge Gregory Lyman considered dropping the charges against Joergensen about a year ago — if he could be deported, as his lawyers had urged.

But Lyman abandoned the idea after another prosecutor told him that Joergensen would not be deported if released from jail because of Biden administration changes that would not make him a priority for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE.

Lyman instead ordered Joergensen to be sent to the Colorado Mental Health Institute in Pueblo, where patients can be forcibly medicated if a judge agrees certain legal criteria are met.

In August, another judge allowed Joergensen to be forcibly medicated to treat his significant personality disorder and delusional disorder at the state mental health hospital but reversed the order in December after Joergensen’s lawyers intervened.

According to a court filing by Joergensen’s lawyers seeking to dismiss the case, Joergensen showed “slight improvements” after taking the medication himself at the hospital, to avoid having it forcibly administered.

However, his lawyers argued he would likely regress after being sent back to a county jail where he would stay while standing trial because the jail does not have staff to forcibly medicate people.