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City officials put his knowledge about Aspen Mountain to use in 1983, a particularly wet year. The officials were concerned about the potential for mudslides into the town’s business district.
“Jim has always been an eccentric fellow, but he wasn’t mad in those days,” said Bill Stirling, then the mayor.
But his wheeling and dealing in mining claims put him at odds with Pitkin County officials in the late 1980s and especially the 1990s, says The Aspen Times . The county government more aggressively examined development applications on land that Blanning claimed to own or that he sold, thwarting his development plans for the backside of Aspen Mountain.
One time he threw a Colorado law book out the window of the county commissioners’ meeting room. Another time he climbed out onto the second-storey roof of the courthouse, tied a rope around a fixture and his waist, and eluded law officers’ efforts to pull him in. Braudis finally talked him down after several hours.
Most colourful of all, a nude Blanning confronted county officials at a local bar one day after an official meeting, wearing a sock as a dildo and taunting them.
He finally was accused of illegal financial manipulations, convicted and sentenced to 16 years. The judge, who died recently, said he had no discretion about the length of the sentence. Because of the nude appearance before the county officials, Blanning was sentenced to prison with sexual offenders.
“For the first two years I was in prison, I woke up every day wishing I was dead,” he wrote in his suicide note.
Released to a halfway house in metropolitan Denver, he spent the rest of his life scheming but deeply embittered and perhaps changed by antidepressants. “Both professionally and personally, I have seen incredible mood swings from a pill, and it can cause suicidal and homicidal effects,” said Braudis.
The Aspen Times says the old-timers who knew him saw him as disillusioned over the changes the town experienced and angry that he couldn’t cash in on the soaring real estate prices.
Still, those friends and acquaintances were shocked when they learned of Blanning’s final day. He had created four gasoline bombs, deposited two of them in banks and then two in an alley. None went off, but hotels and other buildings were evacuated, and the usual New Year’s Eve merriment was halted.