Aspen transient bound over for trial in police-officer assault case
A judge ruled Tuesday that there is enough evidence to try an Aspen transient on a charge that he attacked a police officer.
Landin Smith, 50, appeared in Pitkin County District Court, where he is charged with second-degree assault on a peace officer causing bodily injury, a Class IV felony. If convicted, Smith faces a mandatory five-year stay in state prison. Smith already served time in the Department of Corrections on an identical charge after pleading guilty in 2009.
Smith landed in trouble again Feb. 3, after Sgt. Dan Davis of the Aspen Police Department received a report of an intoxicated individual in the Hyman Avenue pedestrian mall.
Davis, the prosecution’s sole witness at Tuesday’s preliminary hearing, said he initially planned to get Smith some help by taking him to the detoxification unit at Pitkin County Health and Human Services.
But Smith began insulting Davis, prompting the officer to take him to jail instead. That led Smith to assault Davis, the officer testified.
“He kept swinging at me, saying, ‘This is what you deserve, you deserve this, mother-f—er,’ and all this stuff,” Davis testified. “He was trying to assault me. There was no doubt in my mind,” he said. “I just tried to maintain control of Landin as much as I could.”
Smith did not speak at the preliminary hearing, which is held for a judge to determine if there is enough probable cause to hold the case over for trial. Unlike a trial, in which the prosecution has the burden of proof, a judge views evidence presented in a preliminary hearing in the light most favorable to the prosecution.
“The court does find that Landin Smith did act intentionally in causing harm to Dan Davis because he had expressed intent before he hit him,” Judge Gail Nichols said.
Davis testified that he initially approached Smith in an alcove near a downtown restaurant. Smith behaved erratically, once hugging responding officer Ian MacAyeal, but then acting surly, Davis said.
Davis said he placed Smith in the front seat of his patrol vehicle, uncuffed, with plans to take him to detox.
“I told him we weren’t there to arrest him and were taking him to detox so he could sleep it off,” Davis said.
Smith was cooperative, and then “he just slipped a switch. He started to verbally berate me, challenging me to a fight, calling me a mother f—er multiple times. I didn’t say anything and he kept calling me a p—y.”
Davis said he tried to calm the situation by asking Smith how his son was doing, which only escalated matters.
Davis then determined that Smith was a candidate for jail, so he made a U-turn with his patrol vehicle on Main Street. Then, Smith tried to jump out the car, forcing Davis to grab his shirt. Davis said there was traffic on Main Street, so he braked his vehicle against a curb and snowbank. Smith punched Davis in the face and used his feet to push Davis against the driver’s door.
“He used his feet to push off and force me into my door, so I was trapped in my car,” Davis testified. “At that point, I realized he’s not trying to get away. He’s trying to assault me.”
Two Pitkin County deputies then arrived and the matter died down.
In closing arguments, public defender Sara Steele argued that Smith wanted to be left alone when authorities first confronted him. “
He wasn’t bothering people, he wasn’t committing a crime,” she said. “He wanted to be left alone. He was minding his own business, yet citizens called in saying they were worried about him because of his level of intoxication.”
Steele also said that because Smith was drunk, he couldn’t form the intent to assault Davis.
“It was never Mr. Smith’s intent during that scuffle back and forth to cause bodily injury to an officer,” she said. “It was just his intent to get free from the officer.”
Prosecutor Andrea Bryan countered that Davis was simply doing his job that day.
“It’s his duty to keep the public and defendant safe,” she said.
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