Judge finds probable cause in assault case | AspenTimes.com

Judge finds probable cause in assault case

A District Court judge ruled Thursday that probable cause exists to charge a 33-year-old man who claims he was trying to stop a drunken driver last winter with felony assault.

Justin Schaaf later pleaded not guilty to the assault charge and a misdemeanor count of criminal mischief.

However, in a development that could pose problems for the prosecution if the case goes to trial, District Judge Chris Seldin found the 60-year-old victim in the case "incredible" after he refused to answer questions from Schaaf's defense attorney.

"I feel I'm being harassed," the victim said while being cross-examined by attorney Kathy Gowdy. "I don't want to be here anymore."

The hearing revolved around an incident that took place at the fire pit near the intersection of Galena Street and Cooper Avenue in February.

Aspen police Officer Seth DelGrasso testified that he responded to the fire pit after emergency dispatchers received a report about a group of children trying to prevent an alleged intoxicated person from driving away from the area.

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When he arrived, he spoke to a male witness who told him he saw a person wearing a black jacket break off the car's antenna, which prompted the driver to get out and walk toward the fire pit, DelGrasso said. The witness also thought the driver was intoxicated, so he turned off the car and took the keys, he said.

The witness said he then watched as another person wearing a black jacket "bum-rushed" the driver, causing the man to strike a metal pole near the fire pit with his head, DelGrasso said. After that, the witness said the man was on his knees "bleeding profusely," he said.

Another witness identified the man who pushed the victim as "Justin," while a third witness identified Schaaf by his first and last names, DelGrasso testified.

DelGrasso said he spoke with Schaaf, who told the officer he didn't assault anyone but admitted to being around the vehicle the victim was driving and preventing the driver from leaving.

The victim testified that he stopped at the fire pit to give a friend some money and was "terrorized" by a group of people.

"I didn't understand it," he said. "It was so frightening."

He said a man he only knew as "Justin" pushed him from behind and he hit his head, which led to stitches and a skull fracture.

Police reports indicate witnesses saw the victim throw a backpack toward the people at the fire pit, though the victim Thursday denied any interaction with a backpack. He also said he hadn't been drinking that night.

During Schaaf's advisement in February, prosecutor Andrea Bryan asked for a lower than usual bond for Schaaf and said she knew the victim in the case.

"I have no doubt (the victim) was very intoxicated at the time (of Schaaf's assault)," Bryan said at the time.

jauslander@aspentimes.com

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