Attorney: Second defendant in Basalt assault case close to reaching plea disposition

Attorney: Second defendant in Basalt assault case close to reaching plea disposition

A second defendant on a suspected basalt attack and kidnapping case has negotiated a plea that could potentially keep him out of prison.

Daniel Wettstein’s attorney and district attorney on the case said in Eagle County District Court Wednesday that they had reached a disposition but needed additional time to finalize the filing.

Wettstein would plead guilty to having committed a second degree attack by choking, according to defense attorney Michael Fox and Johnny Lombardi, assistant district attorney for the 5th judicial district. In return for the admission of guilt, the DA office would bring a non-aggravated charge that would remove it from a five to 16 year sentence in the state prison system, Lombardi said. Instead, the DA office would reserve the right to plead for a prison sentence of three to six years.

Fox said there is no requirement for a prison so it would allow him to argue for parole or corrections in the community.

Fox also noted that the actual cause of action would be what he considers “legal fiction” as there was no allegation of strangulation in the case. That specific charge was accepted because it would override the higher sentence area, he said.

The other defendant in the case has already reached an agreement and has been sentenced. Mufasta Muhammad, 24, was sentenced to seven years in prison and three years suspended sentence in March once he was released. He pleaded guilty to a second degree attack, a crime of violence. He was entitled to a seven to ten year sentence in the Colorado Department of Corrections as part of the plea.

Eagle County District Judge Paul Dunkelman, who oversaw Muhammad’s case, asked attorneys why Wettstein’s verdict should be different from Muhammad’s.

He noted that Mohammed pleaded guilty and was eligible for five to 16 years in prison with an agreement of seven to ten years.

Wettstein is entitled to two to eight years in prison, with the prosecutor agreeing not to spend more than three to six years in prison under the agreement.

“I’m just trying to get a position in my head as to whether this is a plea that I accept or not,” said Dunkelman.

Lombardi pointed out that the prosecutor’s office viewed the defendants differently. Muhammad had a criminal history, “he was the first attacker” in the basalt strikes, and he was the mediator of alleged stunning transactions related to the case, Lombardi said.

Fox said he would explain why his client’s case was different from Muhammad’s at a future trial.

The police arrested Muhammad and Wettstein for allegedly detaining a man against his will during a party night on August 26 and until the next day. The man claimed he was held at gunpoint and beaten multiple times in the townhouse that Wettstein and Muhammad shared at Evans Court in Willits. The victim said he escaped through a second-floor window early in the morning on August 27, climbed down from the roof and asked a neighbor for help.

Wettstein, 35, was taken into custody when the police responded and asked him to leave the residence. Muhammad stayed in the house for a long time. The police responded with an armored vehicle and a SWAT team. Muhammad finally surrendered without incident.

Wettstein was released from prison and entered a rehabilitation center for military veterans. Muhammad was unable to deposit a loan. When sentenced on March 17, he served 203 days in Eagle County Jail.

The victim of the attack spoke briefly in court on Wednesday.

“These two guys almost killed me,” the victim told Dunkelman. He said his injuries resulted in nightmares, headaches, eating disorders due to tooth damage, and difficulty at work. The victim also said a hospital continues to charge for his treatment.

Dunkelman confirmed with Lombardi that the restitution would be part of the verdict as well as an extension of a protection order prohibiting Wettstein from contact with the victim.

Dunkelman scheduled the next hearing on May 12th at 9:00 am when the disposition is officially presented to him. If he accepts, the sentencing would come at a later date, he said.

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