Judge gives 4 years to `troubled man’ | AspenTimes.com
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Judge gives 4 years to `troubled man’

John Colson

A former Snowmass man convicted of brutalizing his girlfriend in a prolonged incident at her Woody Creek home will be spending the next two years at the Pitkin County Jail.

As part of his sentence, Mark Westenburg will undergo two years of “intensive psychotherapy” concerning his violent behavior toward women. He will also be on probation for four years after his release from jail.

Judge J.E. DeVilbiss, referring to his concern that Westenburg get counseling for his violent nature, said before pronouncing the sentence, “I don’t think prison is going to help you … [and it] may aggravate the problem.”

Westenburg pleaded guilty last November to charges of menacing, a class five felony, and third-degree assault, a class one misdemeanor, after being arrested for brutalizing his girlfriend.

The charges arose from an incident last September. Westenburg got into a fight with the woman he was living with and put her through a night of terror, according to police reports and testimony in court Monday.

And according to testimony and court files, Westenburg had similarly beaten up earlier girlfriends, including a 16-year-old he was dating when he was 16.

In court on Tuesday, Westenburg asked the judge to sentence him in a way that would ensure he would receive treatment, declaring, “I understand the horrible things I’ve done … to these victims and their families. I see the pain that they’ve been through. I pray that they find the healing that they need.”

But the judge dismissed Westenburg’s remarks as “superficial” and insincere and expressed deep dismay over Westenburg’s claims that God has been behind his actions and has spoken to him frequently.

“I don’t know where or how you think God spoke to you … but you seem to be saying God’s on your side,” the judge said. “But that doesn’t make any difference here.”

Noting that it is a sign of psychosis to claim to hear voices, the judge continued, “I’m not able to confine you forever.”

He added, “You’re a very troubled man … you’re a threat to public safety. I don’t know that you have not already killed someone.”

DeVilbiss said Westenburg’s crime made him an appropriate candidate for six years in prison, but the judge worried that upon his release Westenburg would still be a violent predator of women.

So, DeVilbiss concluded, his best option was to put him in jail where local officials can monitor his treatment and his behavior.

And as a condition of his sentence, DeVilbiss strongly warned Westenburg to stay away from his victims or he would be going to prison.

“I’m doing everything I can to protect those women for as long a time as I can protect them,” the judge said.

But, according to Peg McGavock of Response, the local battered women’s advocacy group, the sentence is troubling.

She worried that Westenburg, whom the judge admitted may well be a murderer, will be eligible for work release from the jail and thus be free in the community.

“I think it’s scary,” McGavock said.

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