Judge refuses to throw out lesser assault charge
November 7, 2005
Judge James Boyd ruled Monday that there is sufficient evidence to support trying a Carbondale man on two counts of assault.Billy Joe Knoeppchen, 28, attended a two-hour hearing in which his attorney, public defender Greg Greer, tried to get a lesser assault charge thrown out.Knoeppchen is charged with first- and second-degree assault. After Boyd ruled, the suspect, who throughout the hearing turned and winked at his girlfriend, who was wearing an engagement ring, slammed a cup down on the table and said, “Bring it.”At a clearing outside Carbondale on July 12, he allegedly hit a man and a youth with a metal file. The victims testified in court Monday.The first-degree count stems from the alleged attack on the man, who said that his jaw was broken. His mouth was wired shut for two months, and he was able to eat only nutritional milkshakes and mashed potatoes during that time, he testified.The file hit the youth in the eye, according to the arrest warrant, which led to the second-degree assault charge. But the boy, 16, testified that he was not hurt badly. His eye was a little sore and bruised for a few days, but he did not seek medical attention, the victim said.Greer used the boy’s testimony to argue that the second-degree count should be thrown out. Such a light injury doesn’t warrant the potential five years in prison that Knoeppchen will face if he is found guilty, Greer said.Deputy district attorney Andrew Heyl noted that the boy did say he had some bruising.Boyd, citing a Colorado Supreme Court ruling, said causing even slight pain is enough to allow a jury to decide the issue.Both witnesses described how the fight started. They said when they drove up to the clearing off Prince Creek Road, near Mount Sopris, Knoeppchen and several other young adults were there drinking.A decision was made to get more beer in Carbondale. One of those in attendance, along with the two victims, argued with a girl about her driving after she’d been drinking.They said the girl and an acquaintance left in one car, followed by Knoeppchen and two others in another vehicle. Those who remained at the clearing went four-wheeling, according to the boy’s testimony.The argument intensified when the beer-run group rejoined the four-wheeling enthusiasts.”Who hit Billy with the beer bottle?” Greer asked the adult victim.Knoeppchen, clad Monday in orange Pitkin County Jail garb, recently told the Aspen Daily News that his actions were in self-defense.The adult witness said it was another partygoer, who was particularly incensed that the girl had driven after drinking, who struck the suspect. Both victims said Knoeppchen originally tried to break up the altercation calmly.But the partygoer, who apparently wasn’t injured, and the suspect continued to have heated words. The boy testified that he also saw the partygoer hitting Knoeppchen with a beer bottle.The suspect then allegedly retrieved a metal file from his car and hit the adult victim twice in the mouth. “[The victim] was spitting out blood,” the boy said.He said he pushed Knoeppchen to get him to stop, which is when he was hit in the eye.Knoeppchen will be arraigned Dec. 5.