Plea agreement reached in case of man firing handgun to break up dogfight
Defendant required to take firearm safety class, perform 72 hours of public service in deferred judgment
A longtime Roaring Fork Valley resident agreed to a plea bargain Wednesday in a case where he fired a handgun to break up a dogfight near Crown Mountain Park in January.
Robert Guion pleaded guilty to reckless endangerment and tampering with evidence. Charges of felony menacing and disorderly conduct were dropped by the Fifth Judicial District Attorney’s Office.
Guion faced a possible sentence of 12 to 18 months of imprisonment and a fine for tampering with physical evidence, a class-six felony. He faced a possible sentence of six months in jail and a fine for reckless endangerment, a class-three misdemeanor.
Instead, under terms of the plea agreement, he was given a deferred judgment where the guilty pleas will be removed from his record if he stays out of trouble for the next two years while under supervision of the probation office. The sentence by Eagle County District Judge Paul Dunkelman also requires Guion to perform 72 hours of useful public service and attend a firearm safety class within the next six months. A protection order will be issued that bars Guion from contacting the victim for the length of the sentence.
Guion, 73, of Old Snowmass, was contrite while appearing by video conference at the hearing.
“I take full responsibility. I should have handled this differently,” he said in court. “It’s completely out of my character. I do want to apologize for my actions and apologize to (the victim) for my actions and any problems or grief that I may have caused him.”
Guion’s attorney, Lawson Wills, noted that Guion has taken an active role in volunteering in the community for the 30 years he has lived in the Roaring Fork Valley. Guion formerly served with the Basalt and Rural Fire Protection District and was a member of its board of directors.
Wills said Guion was the victim of a vicious dog attack six years ago that led him to carry a weapon while walking his dogs. Wills said Guion and his two dogs were walking in their neighborhood when three other dogs attacked them in the prior incident. Guion suffered “significant injuries” and one of his dogs had an ear ripped off, according to Wills. The case was prosecuted and the attacking dog and its owner were held responsible, Wills said.
“As a result of that, judge, Mr. Guion went out and purchased a pistol, carried that pistol, got a concealed weapons permit and every time he walked this dog, he brought that gun,” Wills said.
He said Guion typically walked his dogs almost every day near Crown Mountain Park in El Jebel. On Jan. 4, Guion and his wife were walking their dogs on leashes on a trail outside the park by the river when they encountered a man with two dogs not on leashes.
“One of those dogs, a pit bull mix, 80-pound dog, attacks Mr. Guion and his dog Jack. The bigger dog is able to get Mr. Guion’s dog down and around the neck,” Wills said.
The humans separated the dogs, but the pit bull mix attacked Jack, a golden retriever, a second time, according to Wills’ account. The dogs were separated again but the pit bull mix allegedly launched a third attack.
“It was at this point that Mr. Guion pulled out his gun and fired one round into the ground,” Wills said. “At that point, it was startling enough that the attacks stopped.”
Eagle County deputy sheriffs responded to the scene to investigate and eventually arrested Guion. The man with the pit bull mix was not charged.
Wills contended that the deferred judgment for Guion was appropriate given the circumstances, which included self-defense.
“If Mr. Guion made any mistake at all it was after these events he took the gun, disgusted with himself, and threw the gun into the river,” Wills said. “That was where the tampering comes from.”
The weapon, a Bersa .380 semi-automatic handgun, was recovered from the Roaring Fork River and will be destroyed by the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office, with Guion’s consent.
Wills said Guion knows he should have handled the situation differently. Guion now carries “a spray” when he walks his dogs, Wills said.
Guion told the judge that the prior attack triggered his purchase and carrying of a gun, but he stressed that he wasn’t using the prior attack as an excuse for his behavior Jan. 4.
Assistant District Attorney Johnny Lombardi said the victim in the case was aware of the proposed settlement and was particularly interested in Guion serving 72 hours of public service and taking a firearm safety course.
Dunkelman said he found the deferred judgment to be appropriate since Guion has no criminal history and seems likely to successfully complete the two years of supervision.
“Sometimes people make bad decisions,” Dunkelman said. “That’s reality. This one could have gone different ways. It sort of ended where it ended and hopefully everyone is all right.”
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