Jury acquits suspect of assault on Aspen police officer
ASPEN – It took a Pitkin County jury less than two hours Friday to determine that a homeless man’s spitting on an Aspen police officer did not constitute assault. The six-member jury did, however, convict Mark Brown, 51, of harassment.Brown stood trial for third-degree assault on a police officer, a misdemeanor; a conviction would have carried up to two years in county jail. The harassment conviction, meanwhile, carries six months behind bars.Brown showed little emotion when Pitkin County Judge Erin Fernandez-Ely read the verdict from the five-woman, one-man jury. Over the course of the one-day trial, the jury heard testimony from one person – the alleged victim, Officer Chance Williams. They also saw police video of Brown spitting on the officer.On July 13, Williams charged Brown with third-degree assault after Brown, while riding in the back of a patrol vehicle, spit on the officer.”I was shocked, alarmed, annoyed,” Williams testified. “It was degrading, to put it mildly.”Brown was not under arrest at the time. Instead, Williams had taken him into what’s called protective custody, after police were called to the Health & Human Services building across the street from Aspen Valley Hospital. The building is also home to the Day Center, a place that provides essential services to Aspen’s homeless contingent.Brown, Williams said, had been part of a disturbance at the Day Center. But police, realizing that he was intoxicated, decided not to arrest him on criminal charges. Rather, Williams said he took Brown into protective custody for the “safety” of Brown and others so he could sober up and get his act together.The video showed Brown firing off profane and derogatory remarks at Williams and other police officers. His comments were sexually graphic: “I’m not scared of the Aspen Police Department. To serve and protect my skinny little ass.”While en route to Pitkin County Jail, where Brown was to be held for an indefinite amount of time, he spit at Williams, who testified that saliva went on his neck and shoulder.”Do you realize you just assaulted a police officer?” Williams says on the video, and then calls his work supervisor to report the crime. Replied Brown: “I didn’t touch you.”Brown later said: “Are you kidding me? Assault, my a–hole. Third-degree assault on a police officer? You’ve got to be kidding me.”Brown’s public defender, Elise Myer, had argued that while he behaved inappropriately and said derogatory remarks, he “did not cross the line” to commit assault.”He’s allowed to express himself,” she said. “He’s allowed to use words. He shouldn’t be subject to criminal liability for that.”Prosecutor Richard Nedlin, however, said Myer’s suggestion that Brown was so intoxicated that he did not know what he was doing was not a plausible defense.”The defense can’t blame what he did on because he was drunk, because he was too intoxicated to know what he did,” Nedlin said. “That’s just a cop-out.”Brown has been incarcerated since October for allegedly violating the bail-bond condition of his July arrest for assault. He is scheduled to be sentenced Tuesday for the harassment email@example.com
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