Steamboat Springs District Judge Richard P. Doucette ignored requests for probation Monday and instead sentenced a 34-year-old Yampa man to three years in prison for shooting a man last winter.
Warren Dean Hillbolt III received the maximum sentence for his conviction of first-degree assault, a class five felony. A 12-member jury convicted Hillbolt after a four-day trial in August.
On the evening of Dec. 2, Hillbolt shot 24-year-old Jared Williams inside Hillbolt's Yampa trailer, 116400 Colorado 131. Because of the wound to his shoulder, Williams spent one night at Yampa Valley Medical Center.
Hillbolt claims he shot Williams in self-defense because the man had assaulted him prior to the shooting. Because of the fight, Hillbolt suffered a lingering back injury.
Despite pleas for probation by Hillbolt and his attorney, Ron Smith, Doucette said he could not ignore the seriousness of the incident.
"You are very lucky you are not here on a murder charge," Doucette said to Hillbolt. "You should be pleased with the sentence. What you did was a reckless and outrageous act."
Along with the jail sentence, Doucette ordered Hillbolt to pay $3,700 in restitution and $3,600 in victim's compensation.
After Doucette's decision, a disappointed Hillbolt was taken back to the Routt County Jail to wait for corrections officials to pick him up so he can start serving his sentence in a state facility.
During the proceeding, Hillbolt and Smith asked Doucette for probation, which the county's probation department opposed along with placing Hillbolt in a community corrections program.
"I stand before you shackled," said Hillbolt, wearing blue pants and a gray sweatshirt. "I'm very sorry for what happened. Two men were injured, which was mostly Jared Williams.
"I accept all responsibility for my actions. But I do blame alcohol. I have had a problem with alcohol for the past 19 years. Right now, I am dry. I am clean. This is the best I have felt in 19 years."
Deputy District Attorney David Waite argued for the prison sentence based on Hillbolt's criminal record and his past failure to comply with probation.
Hillbolt "shot another human being," Waite said. "A couple of inches would have been a head shot or a heart shot, and Mr. Williams would be dead.
"A sentence of probation would depreciate the seriousness of the incident and undermine the community's trust in the justice system."
During his argument, Waite pointed out Hillbolt's criminal history that includes a fight where Hillbolt struck a man with a bottle, threats he made toward a former girlfriend with a gun and two drunken-driving convictions.
Waite also said Hillbolt was caught with drugs while he was serving in the military.
In most of these cases, Hillbolt was given chances, Waite said.
"There is a pattern of violence," Waite said. "He has been given an opportunity to address the alcohol problem. He has not addressed it. He has not complied with probation in prior cases. There is no reason to believe he would comply with probation now."
Smith countered that Williams provoked Hillbolt's actions.
"What interferes with his ability to be a productive person in society is alcohol," Smith said. "He has been able to sit in jail and dry out for the last 297 days. He has been able to recognize what his problems are."
Instead of a prison sentence, Smith proposed Doucette place his client on probation. Terms would include abstaining from alcohol, and he would be subject to random testing and be forced to enroll in an outpatient treatment program.
"This is an effective program to integrate Mr. Hillbolt back into the community," he said.
In the end, Doucette said he could not ignore Hillbolt's criminal history or the incident.
Doucette encouraged Hillbolt to take advantage of programs offered by the Department of Corrections that focus on alcohol.
"If you get in trouble in the future, the next time you will spend a lot of time in prison," Doucette said.
Doucette credited Hillbolt with time served in jail since he was taken into custody Dec. 2. Hillbolt also has the option to request Doucette reconsider the sentence in 120 days.