Aspen man jailed after alleged assault
ASPEN – An Aspen man faces allegations that he pushed a paraplegic war veteran out of his wheelchair and later spit in an officer’s face.
Robert Joseph Rice was advised of the six criminal charges Monday in Pitkin County District Court, where Judge James Boyd set his bond at $7,500.
Aspen police arrested the 38-year-old, already under court restrictions from a prior offense, late Saturday night after they received a call about a disturbance at Hunter Bar, according to an affidavit in support of a warrantless arrest.
Written by Aspen Police Officer Jason Boston, the affidavit says that when he arrived outside the East Cooper Avenue bar, he spotted three men – including the alleged victim, who is served in the Iraq war and is a paraplegic, and Rice. Another witness told Boston that Rice had assaulted the man in the wheelchair by tackling him to the ground.
As that conversation took place, Rice was walking hurriedly along the Cooper Avenue pedestrian mall. Boston wrote that he yelled at Rice to stop. Instead Rice began to run.
A foot chase through downtown ensued, as Boston trailed Rice along Cooper Avenue, then on to Mill Street. Boston eventually located Rice lying facedown on the ground and handcuffed the suspect, the affidavit says.
More cops arrived, and “Rice was very belligerent and yelling obscenities,” the affidavit says. Realizing that Rice had been hurt from a fall, police called an ambulance to transport him to Aspen Valley Hospital.
On the way to the hospital, Rice spit in the face of Officer Dan Davis. He didn’t stop there, the affidavit says.
“While at [Aspen Valley Hospital] Rice continued to be combative and uncooperative,” Boston wrote. “He also made numerous threats to hospital staff and law enforcement about how our day was coming and that he would kill us. While Rice was restrained in the hospital bed he made two attempts to bite Sergeant Davis.”
AVH staff medicated Rice to “calm him and put him into a relaxed state,” Boston wrote.
Rice faces one felony, third-degree assault by an at-risk adult, along with five misdemeanors: third-degree assault, disorderly conduct, protection order violation, resisting arrest, and violation of bond conditions.
The misdemeanor assault charge carries a mandatory county jail sentence of two years and one day, said prosecutor Arnold Mordkin.
The violation of bond condition and restraining order charges stem from Rice’s alleged consumption of alcohol the night in question. Rice, as part of a court order from a previous case, was not allowed to drink alcohol.
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