Glenwood Springs judge rejects plea deal for owner of wolf hybrid
Jim Wagner, the owner of the wolf-hybrid dog that bit a 7-year-old girl on May 3, will have to appear in court to face vicious dog charges at least one more time.A plea deal hashed out between the Glenwood Springs city attorney’s office, defense attorney Arnold Mordkin of Snowmass Village and Wagner fell through Tuesday when Glenwood Springs Municipal Judge Vic Zerbi rejected it because there was no restitution amount attached.Wagner, 57, is the owner of the wolf-hybrid dog that bit 7-year-old Gracie McSwain of Glenwood Springs. McSwain was bitten in the face while taking pictures of the dogs for a school project. Wagner’s three dogs were in a fenced area in Wagner’s back yard at 412 11th St. at the time of the bite.All three of Wagner’s wolf hybrids have been removed from his residence and placed in a secure facility, Glenwood Springs City Attorney Karl Hanlon said.Wagner was in court Tuesday to face a charge of having a vicious dog and three charges of failure to vaccinate.If Zerbi had accepted the plea deal, Wagner would have pleaded no contest to one count of having a vicious animal. Wagner’s three charges of failure to vaccinate would have then been dropped.A no contest plea leaves the defendant open to conviction, but does not prejudice his case in other court proceedings such as a civil lawsuit.Before the rest of the details of the plea deal were announced, Zerbi said there would be no deal without monetary restitution for the victim.”I’m not prepared to accept a stipulation without a restitution amount attached,” Zerbi said. “I believe it’s the city attorney’s job to find the appropriate restitution in this case. Other than that, I’m prepared to accept your agreement.”Hanlon, Mordkin and Wagner left the courtroom to discuss Zerbi’s ruling, and when they came back, they requested that the case be continued until Tuesday, Aug. 24. The request was granted.After Wagner’s hearing was finished, Zerbi looked at the charges against Wagner’s house-sitter, 32-year-old Lisa B. Ruoff, who was charged with having a vicious animal because she was watching Wagner’s house and animals when the dog bite occurred. But Wagner had told the city attorney that he would accept responsibility for the dogs, so it was agreed that those charges would be dropped.”Mr. Wagner has always and will continue to accept responsibility for the animals,” Mordkin said. “He in no way claimed it was someone else’s fault.”After the hearing, Hanlon said it’s unclear if the two sides will still be able to agree on a plea bargain.Zerbi “felt that it was a request that restitution be completely spelled out in a plea agreement,” Hanlon said. “In light of the judge’s decision, we need to go back to the judge to see what happens … and revisit the plea bargain.”
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