Branson pleads guilty to reduced charges in throat-slicing case
A man who police say tried to slice the throat of his ex-wife’s boyfriend near Old Snowmass pleaded guilty Wednesday to reduced charges.Donald Branson of Aspen was originally charged with attempted first-degree murder and first-degree assault for allegedly attacking Glenwood Springs resident Martin Arroyo in April 2003. The incident resulted in a deep cut just below Arroyo’s chin that required stitches.In a plea agreement, Branson pleaded guilty to menacing and criminal extortion, both felonies. Three weeks ago he was convicted by a jury for violating bond conditions and attempted trespassing at his ex-wife’s house last June.Assistant District Attorney Lawson Wills said that he and Branson’s attorneys agreed to recommend a lengthy sentence of supervised probation. Wills said the guilty pleas will also likely carry a sentence of three to six months in the Pitkin County Jail.Combined with the mandatory sentencing of 12 to 18 months in prison that will result from his previous convictions, Wills said he felt the sentence fits the crime. Although the incident was violent, Wills pointed out that it ultimately wasn’t life-threatening.”Getting the knife across the throat didn’t produce any permanent injury at all – [Arroyo] walked out of the hospital that day,” Wills said.The incident stemmed from a love triangle that Wills referred to as “a bad soap opera.” The three people involved – Branson, Arroyo and Pam Branson – were living together last spring in a home on Cooper Avenue. The two men fought over Pam Branson, and the situation erupted on April 9, 2003.Arroyo told police that he was lured by Branson into a remote area near Old Snowmass. He said Branson tried to slash his throat and leave him for dead. But Arroyo ran off, and Branson was later arrested near the Aspen Club & Spa. Branson later admitted to cutting Arroyo, but said it was done in self-defense.Last July, Arroyo was arrested after fighting with Pam Branson in the Cooper Avenue residence. He is serving a two-year sentence in Pitkin County Jail for the convictions stemming from that case.The continued run-ins with local authorities meant that the attempted murder case against Branson was going to be a hard one to argue, Wills said yesterday.”The problem with the case and the reason for the plea is that nobody has clean hands,” he said. “Problems with Martin and Pam were well publicized and reasonably accurate. The jury wasn’t going to like anybody in this case. It was a situation with a lot of twists, turns and circumstances.”Obviously, nobody is excusing Martin’s actions or those of Pam Branson, but we believe that Don Branson had more options than taking the law into this own hands.”Wills said he thinks that Branson and his attorneys began working intently on coming up with a plea agreement in recent weeks because of the outcome of the bond violation trial.Naomi Havlen’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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