Unusual plea in Snowmass Village assault tied to man’s government job
July 2, 2018
A Department of Defense contractor who punched and seriously injured another man in October after an altercation on a bus received an unusually light sentence Monday for his actions.
Jonah Woods, 44, of Arkansas pleaded guilty to felony second-degree assault and was sentenced to one year of unsupervised probation and 80 hours of community service in a plea deal with the District Attorney's Office. In addition, if he stays out of trouble during the year of probation, the felony will be wiped from his record.
Prosecutor Tony Hershey said the deal for unsupervised probation was made "because of the work the defendant does" as a contract air-traffic controller for the Department of Defense. He declined to further explain the rationale, directing a reporter to call District Attorney Jeff Cheney, who didn't return a phone message Monday.
District Judge Chris Seldin said it appeared to him that issues involving "proof" led to the plea.
Hershey said Woods and three other defense contractors with him that night had been drinking and got into an argument with two other men on the bus over President Donald Trump and possibly a woman. The two parties went their separate directions after getting off the bus in Snowmass Village, though Woods and his companions stopped their truck to confront the two men again minutes later, possibly after one of the two men flipped them off, Hershey said.
Arnold Mordkin, Woods' attorney, told a different story.
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He said Woods, who spent 15 years in the U.S. Air Force, was sober and that the victim was "clearly belligerent and clearly threatening" on the bus toward Woods and his friends. The victim also lied to more than one police officer and threatened Woods and his friends with death, Mordkin said.
Mordkin also cast doubt on the seriousness of the 27-year-old victim's injuries, saying he didn't seek treatment for a day or two.
Putting the blame on the victim prompted Hershey to point out that the confrontation between the two groups was over by the time Woods and his friends decided to stop the truck they were in, and he got out and punched the victim.
"If he had kept driving, we wouldn't be here today," Hershey said.
Woods apologized to the court and said the financial and other stresses on him and his family caused by the case against him would ensure that he will stay out of trouble.
The victim did not appear in court Monday, though Hershey said he was "open" to the plea deal after initially wanting a severe sentence for Woods. The victim does want monetary restitution for the injuries he suffered, Hershey said.
Seldin said the Woods case was "a serious matter" that reminded him of another recent case in Snowmass Village where a black man was racially taunted in a bar and retaliated by punching and seriously injuring the man he thought taunted him.
In that case, Seldin sentenced Brandon Hines, 21, of Milwaukee, to 14 days in jail and a year of supervised probation after he pleaded guilty to one count of misdemeanor assault. At Hines' sentencing in December, Seldin told him that while the community "absolutely does not tolerate the type of provocation you were subjected to … we also condemn physical violence."
"The punch, although obviously provoked, was an act of violence and that kind of assault cannot be tolerated and does deserve punishment," Seldin told Hines in December.
In other court news Monday:
• A district judge declined to lower the bond of a local man with a serious grudge against the Snowmass Village Police Department that includes threatening the agency's chief.
Jeremiah Casper, 41, has made numerous threats against Chief Brian Olson and several of his officers, said prosecutor Tony Hershey. His statements include, "Tell Brian to die off," and "I'm just going to destruct the Brian Olson's gang," according to a Pitkin County Sheriff's Office report.
"I will collect Olson's badge and police credentials by force," Casper said, according to the police report. "I hate Snowmass Village cops. They are my enemies.
"These dumb ass village pigs have no clue about what I am capable of."
Chip McCrory, Casper's lawyer, asked Seldin to lower Casper's bond from $10,000 cash-only, but Seldin denied the request.
Casper has been arrested several times in recent months after issuing perceived threats against the Snowmass Village Police Department, the District Attorney's Office and, most recently, a security guard at the airport.
• A local man who was arrested this spring after being found passed out inside the locked door of a downtown business was sentenced to a year of supervised probation Monday after pleading guilty to misdemeanor drug possession.
Henry Dodderidge, 29, was an employee at D'Angelico Guitars when a customer arrived at the door in early April and saw him inside passed out on the floor. When police entered the building through a back door, they allegedly discovered cocaine in his wallet after he threw it to them.
Dodderidge, who is now 30 days sober, took responsibility for his actions and said he's taking his sobriety seriously. He must perform 20 hours of community service and remain free of drugs and alcohol during the probationary period, when his sobriety will be monitored.