Wettstein sentenced to 4 years for Basalt assault
Victim of brutal beating asked for harshest sentence possible
Daniel Wettstein was sentenced Wednesday to four years in the Colorado Department of Corrections for his role in what authorities labeled a brutal assault in Basalt.
Eagle County District Judge Paul Dunkelman said Wettstein must also serve three years of mandatory parole and pay restitution that exceeds $30,000 to the victim of the beating. It was unclear if the restitution will be split with a co-defendant in the case.
“Today is a tragic day,” Dunkelman said. It’s a tragedy for the victim, who was in the courtroom for the sentencing; it’s a tragedy for Wettstein’s mother and two sisters, who asked the judge for leniency in Daniel’s sentence; and it’s a tragedy “for a veteran to be here facing these consequences,” the judge said.
Dunkelman previously sentenced a co-defendant in the case, Mufasta Muhammad, to seven years in the Department of Corrections. While the roles of Wettstein and Muhammad were similar in the case, differences in the men’s criminal histories and their actions warranted the different sentences, Dunkelman said.
Wettstein, 36, served in the U.S. Army in the war in Iraq and likely had “experiences that most of cannot fully understand,” Dunkelman said. Also in Wettstein’s favor were his actions over the past 10 months since his arrest in the August assault. Wettstein attended a rehabilitation program for military veterans. He has been sober since his arrest and has a strong support group among family and friends, Dunkelman said.
The co-defendants also have differences in their criminal histories. Muhammad had felony convictions for violent crimes and was serving a deferred sentence at the time of the Basalt assault. Wettstein has misdemeanor convictions on his record, including one for third-degree assault and one for disorderly conduct.
The Fifth Judicial District Attorney’s office sought a sentence for Wettstein of six years in the Department of Corrections. Assistant DA Johnny Lombardi disputed a contention that a friend of Wettstein’s made in a letter that Wettstein was a “war hero.”
“It’s no war hero here,” said Lombardi, who noted he had served in the military during the first Gulf War. “Being in the military is no free pass to commit crimes.”
He said Wettstein failed to display the obedience and discipline of a former soldier during the Basalt attack. He should have intervened in the action and called police, according to Lomdardi.
Wettstein’s attorney, Michael Fox, sought probation for his client. He said Wettstein served three years in the Army, mostly overseas. Wettstein has been affected by substance abuse issues, which directly contributed to the August incident, according to Fox. Wettstein is working to put the substance abuse behind him, according to his attorney.
“He has made tremendous progress in his life,” Fox said.
Wettstein’s mother and two sisters also spoke at the hearing. They acknowledged he has struggled with issues throughout most of his life but was good at heart and re-engaged with friends and family who can help him succeed in life.
Wettstein and Muhammad were arrested for the beating a man who was visiting the Willits townhouse where they lived Aug. 26. According to police accounts, the victim and Wettstein were acquaintances who ran into each other at a Basalt bar and later went to Wettstein’s townhouse to continue partying. Muhammad came home later in the evening and joined them. While accounts differ on what transpired, there was a confrontation and both men participated in the beating of the victim, which included a pistol-whipping.
The man escaped from an upstairs window the following morning, leapt to the ground and sought help from a neighbor. Police arrested Wettstein when they arrived. Muhammad surrendered hours later after a SWAT team surrounded the residence.
Both men faced multiple charges. Both agreed to plea bargains where they pleaded guilty to second-degree assault in return for other charges being dropped. There was no mandatory sentence agreed to in Wettstein’s case.
The victim spoke in court and asked for the highest penalty possible.
“Since this incident, my life isn’t normal anymore,” he told the judge through an interpreter. He suffered numerous injuries, including loss of substantial vision in his left eye, loss of several teeth and chronic pain in his back and other parts of his body. The injuries affect his ability to work, he said.
Wettstein spoke at the end of a one-hour, emotionally packed hearing. Wearing a white-collared shirt, blue vest and red tie, Wettstein said his action that night in Basalt and the path he was on at the time were wrong. He said he has gathered the tools to serve a sober and productive life.
Wettstein experiences post traumatic stress disorder from his time in the military, according to court testimony. He apologized to the victim, who is experiencing PTSD from the beating.
“I hope my apology can help him heal,” Wettstein said.
After listening to the prosecutor, defense attorney Fox, the victim, Wettstein and Wettstein’s family, Dunkelman said the case warranted a Department of Corrections sentence, which likely means a prison term.
“This was a brutal beating. There are consequences for that,” he said.
Wettstein was required to report immediately to Eagle County Jail, where he will await being assigned to a state facility.
At the end of the proceeding, Wettstein said, “Thank you, your honor. I respect your decision.”
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