ASPEN - Banjo players are used to being the butt of jokes, but they are rarely accused of brandishing their instrument as a potential weapon.
Joseph Stancato, 32, of Denver, was charged with second-degree assault early New Year's Day after allegedly using his banjo in a fight with another man, according to an incident report by the Aspen Police Department.
Police said Stancato and a friend got into a minor altercation with other men near the intersection of Mill Street and Hyman Avenue during New Year's Eve festivities. Police broke up the scrum and sent the men on their separate ways.
One group went to the Rubey Park Transit Center where they discovered they missed their bus at about 2:15 a.m. Friday. A police officer was helping the men by getting a Tipsy Taxi voucher for them at a nearby bar when Stancato and his friend came across their foes from the earlier melee.
Police said the fight got cranked up again and Stancato allegedly took action with his instrument. "He swung a banjo at the victim, hitting him in the head," the police report said. Another man with Stancato, John Holley, 25, of Lone Tree, Colo., allegedly punched the victim.
Stancato and Holley fled the scene. A buddy of the victim provided police with a description of the alleged attackers and their direction of travel. Police caught the duo near the intersection of West Bleeker and Main streets, the report said.
Stancato was arrested for second degree assault, a felony. He was booked into the Pitkin County jail and later posted $5,000 bond, according to Aspen Police Officer Mike Tracey. Holley was given a summons for third degree assault, a misdemeanor, and released.
Tracey, who was on duty New Year's Day but not when the arrest was made for the fight, said it appeared from the report that the victim required medical treatment.
Other than the dueling banjo incident, New Year's Eve was relatively quiet for Aspen police, Tracey said. There were two arrests for driving under the influence of alcohol, a citation for a minor in possession of alcohol, two disorderly conduct citations and an investigation of a car accident.