ASPEN - An Aspen transient admitted Monday in court that he stabbed a woman in the back earlier this year, as did his defense attorney and the lead prosecutor in the case. But one person insisted he didn't: the victim.
"As God is my witness, Marc Altman did not stab me," victim Terry Decker told Pitkin County District Judge Gail Nichols, claiming that another neighbor knifed her back. "The police won't listen to me, and I'm not going to let him plead guilty."
But that's what Altman, 49, did when he pleaded guilty to felony menacing and misdemeanor assault in Pitkin County District Court.
Aspen police said Altman stabbed Decker, his ex-girlfriend, at her Truscott Place apartment unit. Decker, 62, had a mark about 1 inch long "that I believed to be a stab wound that possibly came from a knife," wrote Aspen Police Officer Peter Bauer.
Prosecutor Arnold Mordkin originally charged Altman with attempted first-degree murder. But the plea agreement, which Nichols approved Monday, means that charge will be dropped.
However, Nichols said she was uncomfortable with the sentence proposed by Mordkin and Altman's attorney, Peter Rachesky, of Glenwood Springs. The proposed sentence called for no jail time - Altman has been in custody since his arrest - and three years of probation.
Nichols noted that Altman's history of run-ins with the law is mainly because of his substance-abuse problems. She worried aloud that Altman, once released from jail, would return to his old ways and violate his probation, which includes a no-alcohol provision.
"Mr. Altman, you've been around a long time," the judge said. "I just have a concern that this is an invitation to fail."
Nichols ordered Altman to return to court Jan. 22. By that time, she also expects to have a pre-sentence investigation report to help guide her sentencing decision.
"I really think I need a (pre-sentence investigation) because I need to impose on you the proper conditions," Nichols said.
As for Decker, her claim that Altman did not stab her did not influence Nichols. Mordkin noted that on the night of the injury, Decker told authorities that Altman was the culprit.
"Although she may wish to claim someone else harmed her, that was not the case that night of the injury," Mordkin said.
Decker also told the court that she believes Altman needs help for his substance-abuse battles.
"I think he needs rehab or something," she said. "He did not hurt me."
Decker, while walking out of the court, told the judge, "Thank you. I guess that's all I can do. I don't care. Do what you think is best for him. I hope he has the best."
Nichols agreed that Altman needs a post-jail program that will keep him out of trouble.
"You are old enough now that if you don't address this, you're going to die, and I don't want to see that," Nichols said.
While Altman's case is winding down, a felony assault charge is pending against Decker in District Court. Authorities say that in April, she struck Altman in the head with a hammer.