Judge rejects plea deal for suspect in armed Winter Park standoff
Sky-Hi Daily News
Grand County, Colorado
That was how District Court Judge Mary Hoak responded on Friday to a proposed plea agreement between the 14th Judicial District Attorney’s Office and lawyers for Brian Wilson.
Wilson, 52, of Denver, is the suspect in a three-hour standoff with police last Thanksgiving between the town of Winter Park and Winter Park Resort.
He stands charged with three counts of 1st degree assault, three counts of menacing, two counts of obstructing a police officer, three counts of prohibited use of a weapon, and one count each of obstructing a highway, driving under the influence, and DUI per se.
The deal Hoak rejected would have entailed one count of felony menacing – with a knife, with a recommendation by the DA’s office that Wilson be sentenced to no more than three years in the Department of Corrections.
“There’s some serious charges in this case,” Hoak said. “An F5 (Class 5 felony) seems like a pretty sweet deal,” she added as she asked the DA’s representative to explain the reasoning behind the deal.
“Every possible thing that could be charged was charged,” responded Deputy DA Daniel Miraflor.
“Did you all over-charge the case?” Hoak asked.
“We may have departed a little bit from the norm,” Miraflor said, explaining that while the office didn’t overcharge, it usually doesn’t include every charge it could in every case.
Miraflor said the DA’s office thoroughly examined the case with the officers involved who, he said, were aware of and agreed with the plea deal. Moreover, Wilson has no criminal history with the exception of one driving under the influence (DUI) case in 1996, Miraflor added.
Wilson, dressed in a black and gray short-sleeved shirt and off-white dress slacks, sat attentively with his hands folded on the table in front of him during the proceedings. He spoke only in whispers with his attorney.
Hoak briefly read from the arrest affidavit detailing officers’ accounts of what happened during the standoff.
“I don’t know, gentlemen,” she said. “I know the defense may take issue with the facts, but to read the affidavit is chilling, to say the least. … I’m having a hard time. I’m having a real hard time.”
During the duration of the standoff, the affidavit says, Wilson poured drinks from a 1.75-liter bottle of tequila and handled his .45-caliber semi-automatic pistol.
At one point, Wilson “pointed it directly at several officers” with the hammer cocked and the safety off while holding the gun by the barrel, the affidavit says.
Officers eventually shot Wilson with a non-lethal “beanbag” round from a 12-gauge shotgun. The charge knocked the suspect to the ground, where five officers tried to subdue him, according to the affidavit. During the struggle, Wilson “indiscriminately” discharged four rounds from the pistol, the document says.
“I mean, it’s a serious, serious case,” Hoak said.
Suicide by cop
Wilson’s attorney, Lee Harrell, said Wilson never intended to shoot an officer. In fact, his intent, according to the officers, “was to be shot by the officers,” Harrell said.
The attorney also said that Wilson has been undergoing mental health counseling, and he reiterated the defendant’s lack of a criminal history.
Hoak asked Miraflor why the DA’s office didn’t include at least one Class 3 felony (1st degree assault).
“I think that we were looking at a jail sentence that we think is appropriate,” Miraflor said.
He explained the potential sentencing range for a Class 3 felony (four to 12 years versus one to three years for a Class 5 felony) would present “quite a risk for the defense,” and might represent too much jail time “for this particular defendant.”
“One of the most dangerous things in the world” is to pull a gun on a police officer, Hoak said, “and I don’t want to be the one to tell the state of Colorado that that’s just menacing.”
Both Miraflor and Harrell pointed out again that the officers involved agreed to the plea deal, and Miraflor said they would testify at sentencing.
“I wish they were here now,” Hoak said, as she instructed court personnel to take the “unusual” step of calling them for an on-record consult.
She then asked Fraser-Winter Park Police Chief Glen Trainor via speaker phone what he thinks of the plea deal. Trainor was closely involved in the standoff.
“I initially was uncomfortable with this offer,” Trainor said. “I have accepted this offer,” he added, later characterizing it by saying, “I don’t believe this is the best of circumstances.”
“This is a very harrowing case for all of us,” Trainor said, adding that everyone involved “is lucky to be alive.”
When asked point blank by Hoak whether she should accept the deal, Trainor said that call is “beyond my pay grade.”
Another Fraser-Winter Park officer present at the incident, Sean Curran, also addressed Hoak.
“The only problem I had with the plea offer is that he (Wilson) committed several gun offenses and he’s pleading guilty to menacing with a knife,” he said.
Hoak asked Miraflor and Harrell whether that is true, to which they responded yes, with Harrell explaining that was “to avoid immediate remand” into custody. (Wilson is free on a $200,000 bond after serving about 90 days in county jail.)
Hoak said there is no way she will accept such a deal.
“At this time, I’m going to reject your plea,” she said.
“I’m not on the warpath to send Mr. Wilson to prison for numerous years,” she said. “I’m troubled by it,” she added, reiterating that she is concerned the deal would send an inappropriate message to the community about the seriousness of the alleged offenses.
“I’m going to ponder it some more, and you all need to ponder it some more,” she told Miraflor and Harrell.
The hearing is scheduled to continue at 4 p.m. Friday, July 10.
– Drew can be reached at (970) 887-3334 ext. 19610 or at firstname.lastname@example.org
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