Plea deal in Aspen assault case nets probation
July 7, 2009
ASPEN – An Aspen man who pleaded guilty to third-degree assault Monday in Pitkin County District Court was sentenced to one year of probation, after originally being charged with sexual assault.
District Judge James Boyd sentenced Sohan Shrestha, 37, a former manager of the defunct Cooper Street Pier tavern, to one year of unsupervised probation. He was ordered to perform 75 hours of public service, and was given credit for 575 days served in jail.
Shrestha’s guilty plea to the misdemeanor charge, which included his admission that he “recklessly caused bodily injury,” was part of a plea agreement that called for the district attorney’s office to drop the sexual assault count. Shrestha, who has been incarcerated in the Pitkin County jail since Aug. 26 in lieu of $25,000 bail, faced up to life in prison if convicted of the sexual assault charge.
But, apparently, the prosecution faced a number of roadblocks, including issues about the credibility of the accuser and interviews with her conducted by a fired Aspen police officer.
The plea agreement prompted Judge Boyd to ask Chief Deputy District Attorney Arnold Mordkin, the lead prosecutor in the case, about the sexual assault charge being dropped.
“This is out of character for us to allow a plea in this serious of a case, but we owe an ethical duty to the defendant and the people of this state,” Mordkin told the judge, saying he did not believe he could get a conviction if the case went to trial.
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He added: “The defense has made it impossible that the defendant can be convicted.”
Shrestha had been accused of attacking a woman at Cooper Street Pier in the early morning hours of Aug. 20, 2008. The accuser, a former employee of the bar, had told police that she had been drinking with friends at the bar until it closed at 2 a.m.
Around that time, the accuser said she, an employee and Shrestha went downstairs to remove a cast from her broken arm. Some time after the employee left, Shrestha is believed to have attacked the woman.
Mordkin said Shrestha’s time in jail has been substantial punishment. Shrestha’s attorney, Public Defender Stephen McCrohan, told the court he did not believe Shrestha, who has no prior criminal record, would not have to register as a sex offender.
“I have lost everything,” Shrestha told the judge, through a Nepalese interpreter. “I lost my business. My family is in a bad pinch right now.”
There also is an Immigrations Customs and Enforcement hold on Shrestha, who is from Nepal. While he was residing here legally at the time of the incident, the charges triggered an ICE hold to be implemented.
Shrestha is married with a child, and his parents live in Nepal, according to court testimony.