Judge drops two counts in Aspen police assault case
October 6, 2009
ASPEN – There is enough evidence for an Aspen man to stand trial for four of six felony charges connected to the alleged assault of two police officers in August, a judge ruled at a preliminary hearing Monday.
Senior District Judge Thomas Ossola dropped two of the counts against Landin Smith, finding there was not probable cause for him to be tried for breaking the foot of Aspen police officer Chance Williams. Ossola also bound over a fifth felony charge that Smith violated his bail bond conditions the day he was arrested.
Smith, 45, was arrested Aug. 13 at Koch Lumber Park in Aspen, after police responded to a complaint that he was disrupting a volleyball game. When police showed up, they found him allegedly under the influence of alcohol, a violation of his bond in another case in which he had been charged with unlawful sexual contact involving a minor. He had been released on a $1,000 bond in the case, on the condition that he abstain from alcohol and drug use.
Aspen police officer Rob Fabrocini was the prosecution’s only witness in the preliminary hearing, testifying that when he initially approached Smith at the park, he would not say whether he had been drinking when asked. When Fabrocini told Smith he was under arrest for drinking, which was a violation of his bail bond condition, Smith became hostile with the arresting officers, Leon Murray and Chance Williams, according to Fabrocini’s testimony.
A scuffle ensued, with Smith kicking, yelling and swearing at the officers, Fabrocini said. Fabrocini testified that Smith kicked him in the thigh and tried to bite him when the suspect was placed in the patrol vehicle.
“He ripped hair out of my scalp,” Fabrocini said, adding that Smith used his mouth to do it.
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Smith’s attorney, public defender Stephen McCrohan, tried to poke holes in Fabrocini’s account, arguing that the officer did not note in the police report that he was kicked in the thigh.
Williams had his own difficulties as well, and broke three foot bones during the alleged scuffle. But Williams did not testify in the preliminary hearing, and Ossola said there was not sufficient evidence that showed that Smith intentionally tried to cause bodily injury to the officer. He dropped the class-four felony charges of assault in the second degree-peace officer, and assault in the second degree-peace officer in custody.
The four felony charges Judge Ossola upheld, in connection to the alleged assault, were two class-four felony charges of assault in the second degree-police officer (Fabrocini), and two class-four felony charges of assault in the second degree-peace officer (Fabrocini) in custody.
The judge’s ruling comes after a grand jury indicted Smith in August on four felony counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor – after Judge James Boyd ruled in June there was not sufficient evidence to prosecute him on the same charges.