Man sentenced to seven years in prison for his role in Basalt assault case
One of the two defendants in a Basalt assault case was sentenced to seven years in state prison Wednesday for his role in the violent beating.
Mufasta Muhammad, 24, was sentenced to the low end of the range agreed to by the 5th Judicial District Attorney’s Office and the public defender.
Muhammad will get credit for serving 203 days in Eagle County Jail. He will face three years of mandatory parole once he is released from prison.
“I accept responsibility for the poor choices that I made. I have no excuses for what happened,” Muhammad told Eagle County District Judge Paul Dunkelman. He said he wants to serve his sentence and return to California, where he has a support group of family and friends as well as two sons, ages three and four.
When handing down the sentence, Dunkelman said he agreed with one of the attorney’s labeling of the case as “tragic.”
“It is tragic when two children are not going to be able to see their dad in person or how they should for a long period of time,” Dunkelman said. “It is tragic when someone suffers injuries like occurred in this case. It is tragic when the court sentences a 24-year-old man to seven to 10 years in the Department of Corrections, so there is a lot of tragedy today, a lot of tragedy before today.”
A pre-sentence investigation by the probation office showed that Muhammad battled addiction to narcotics and alcohol, according to his attorney, public defender Kevin Jensen. In addition, Jensen said Muhammad grew up without the role model of a father. His dad was sentenced to 75 years in prison when Mufasta was a child, according to Jensen.
Dunkelman referenced the “vicious cycle” of incarceration.
“You need to break the cycle, Mr. Muhammad,” the judge said. “You’re in the cycle but you’re going to get out and you need to break that cycle. You’re going to have time to be a father. You’re going to have all those options but you’ve got break the cycle. You’ve been in it for awhile.”
He said Muhammad’s sons need a strong role model so they don’t enter the cycle.
But the judge also noted, “The harsh part of this is, you did earn whatever sentence is coming.”
Muhammad and co-defendant Daniel Wettstein were arrested by police for allegedly holding a man against his willing during a night of partying Aug. 26 and into the next day. The man claimed he was held at gunpoint and beaten numerous times at the townhouse that Wettstein and Muhammad shared on Evans Court in Willits. The victim said he was able to escape through a second-story window, climb down from the roof and seek help from a neighbor.
Wettstein was taken into custody when police arrived and asked him to exit the residence. Muhammad remained in the house for an extended time. Police responded with an armored vehicles and SWAT team. Muhammad eventually surrendered without incident.
Multiple charges were filed against both men. Muhammad pleaded not guilty Dec. 23 but reversed course in January. He pleaded guilty to second-degree assault. It was enhanced as a crime of violence.
Muhammad faced the possibility of significantly longer time in prison if he went to trial and lost.
Wettstein waived his preliminary hearing and entered a rehab center for military veterans last year. He is scheduled to appear in court Wednesday.
The violent incident shocked the neighborhood. Residents of several units around the townhouse had to be evacuated while the outcome of the case was still uncertain.
An affidavit filed by Basalt police in support of a warrantless arrest said the victim stated he ran into Wettstein, who he knew, at a bar in Basalt and later went to Wettstein’s residence. Something went awry and Wettstein allegedly held a pistol to the victim’s head. Muhammad arrived at the home later in the evening and also allegedly held a gun to the victim’s head.
“(The victim) said Mr. Wettstein and Mr. Muhammad took turns beating him throughout the night,” the affidavit said. “(The victim) said during the morning of August 27, 2020, Mr. Wettstein and Mr. Muhammad continued to beat him and would not allow him to leave the home.”
Muhammad told police that Wettstein had a pistol out when he arrived home but he denied the weapon was used in a forceful way. Muhammad insisted he was “boxing” with the victim later in the night, according to the affidavit.
The victim suffered extensive injuries. Dunkelman indicated Muhammad will be accountable for restitution for medical expenses.
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