ASPEN - A San Diego man who said he had been celebrating his birthday on Wednesday night is in custody in the Pitkin County Jail under $5,000 bond, accused of punching an Aspen police officer at a bar early Thursday.
Gerardo Borja, 26, was in Pitkin County District Court on Thursday afternoon for an advisement with Judge Gail Nichols. He told Nichols that he works at a restaurant operated by Aspen Skiing Co. and that he is a resident of the Club Commons employee-housing complex in Snowmass Village. He said neither he nor his brother, who was not involved in the incident, had any money to post his bail.
Prosecutor Andrea Bryan asked that Borja - who said he also lives in Belgium but that his family is from San Diego - not be allowed release on a personal-recognizance bond. Nichols pointed out to Borja the serious nature of the alleged offense, given that assault on a police officer is a felony that results in mandatory jail time if the accused person is convicted.
In all, Borja faces one felony and three misdemeanor charges: second-degree assault on a police officer, third-degree assault, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct. Bryan said in court that the assault-on-a-police-officer charge alone carries a mandatory sentence of five to 16 years.
Borja allegedly hit Officer Nick Farrell as Farrell was dealing with a disturbance at The Regal on South Galena Street just after 1:40 a.m. Thursday, according to an affidavit filed by fellow officer Dave Rosselot.
Rosselot wrote that he went to the Regal on a follow-up call regarding an earlier disturbance. Once there, he heard doorman Gerald Delisser call out to Farrell, who was outside, to ask for help with a problem at the bar.
The Regal was extremely crowded, he wrote, and he was not able to stay close as Farrell made his way into the bar area. Another man, later identified as 26-year-old Eric Meza, led Farrell around the establishment in an attempt to point out a suspect who had assaulted him.
"As I was making my way through the crowd towards Farrell, I suddenly observed many persons throwing punches and fighting with each other right where Farrell had been," Rosselot wrote. "I burst through the crowd and observed Farrell yelling at a male (Borja) and saying, 'You just punched a cop! You're coming with me!'"
Borja then tried to break away from Delisser's hold and grabbed the left side of Rosselot's shirt and refused to let go, the affidavit said.
Soon after, the two officers and Delisser managed to escort Borja outside, Rosselot wrote. Meanwhile, another man, 22-year-old Hugo Nava, "was attempting to physically and verbally intervene with our actions to place Borja under arrest. ... Officer Jeff Fain (who had just arrived on scene) took Nava into custody."
Rosselot said he yelled to Borja to put his hands behind his back so that he could be handcuffed.
"Borja initially complied, and as Farrell was placing Borja into the handcuffs, he suddenly twisted away from my grasp and faced Farrel. Borja then intentionally headbutted Farrell, causing pain and swelling to Farrell's lip."
Farrell's injuries required medical attention at Aspen Valley Hospital's emergency room, Rosselot wrote.
Later, at the jail, Borja told Rosselot that he had been drinking heavily with friends at various bars because it was his birthday. Throughout the night, there were disagreements with various people, according to his testimony in the affidavit.
"Borja told me that he remembered the brawl inside the Regal, but did not know the exact reasoning for it and also remembered hitting someone while inside the Regal - but he could not recall who he had hit," the affidavit said.
Rosselot also wrote, "He then told me that he remembered 'headbutting someone' but did not know who he had headbutted, and when I told him it was a police officer he told me that he did not know it was a police officer but that he was 'sorry' and 'wanted to apologize.'"
Borja is due back in court at 10:30 a.m. Monday for a bond-reduction hearing and possible formal reading of the charges.