Aspen man: Violent incident ‘changed my life’ |

Aspen man: Violent incident ‘changed my life’

A local man who was intoxicated and attacked a sleeping neighbor last summer was sentenced Monday to four years of probation.

Kevin Nielsen, 36, previously pleaded guilty to felony criminal trespassing and misdemeanor assault in connection with the incident. He said Monday his arrest “was a huge wake-up call for me” to get a grip on mental health and addiction issues he hadn’t taken seriously enough in the past.

“That changed my life that day,” Nielsen said. “I’ve never tried this hard. I don’t ever want to be back here again.”

Nielsen’s neighbor told police Aug. 12 that he’d seen Nielsen about 9:30 p.m. that night outside their apartments on East Durant Avenue and Nielsen was “drunk” and “frustrated with people,” according to a police report.

An hour later, after the neighbor had fallen asleep on his couch, Nielsen kicked open the man’s door, charged him and punched him in the face, the report states. The neighbor told police he fought with Nielsen to get him out of the apartment but Nielsen threw him down a flight of stairs, according to the report.

Nielsen later told police he committed the assault because the neighbor wasn’t doing enough to help the neighbor’s homeless brother.

On Monday, Nielsen’s lawyer said the neighbor at the time “wanted to make his brother homeless,” which provoked a strong reaction from Nielsen, who was homeless between 2013 and 2015.

“It was terrifying to (Nielsen) and helped fuel what happened that night,” said Molly Owens, the public defender who represented Nielson.

Nielsen said he wished the neighbor, who was not seriously injured, was in court Monday.

“He was my best friend,” Nielsen said. “He didn’t really deserve what happened that day.”

Since the incident, Nielsen voluntarily moved out of the affordable-housing unit in the Durant Avenue complex and has been living in the Glenwood Springs area, where his mother has helped support him. He told District Judge Chris Seldin he made the best of his situation by taking medication and seeking out extra counseling.

“I had one bad day and it changed my life,” Nielsen said.

Prosecutor Sarah Oszczakiewicz said she considered recommending jail for Nielsen. However, his actions since the incident mean “he has put in the time and effort to earn the probationary sentence.”

Seldin also said he considered imposing jail because of Nielsen’s past violent criminal history and the violence that occurred in August.

However, Seldin said he too was impressed with Nielsen’s commitment to treatment and felt that jail would only hinder that progress.

“This is what we want,” Seldin said. “This is the best-case scenario for somebody grappling with mental health and addiction issues.”

As part of his sentence, Nielsen must remain sober, continue to participate in a sobriety monitoring program, write a letter of apology to his former neighbor and complete 48 hours of community service. His probation also may be transferred to the Fort Collins area, where his two children live.

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