Man released from prison after stabbing

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— A 45-year-old Steamboat Springs man whose 1999 conviction on first-degree assault charges was overturned in April was released from prison Monday on a personal recognizance bond.

Kenneth Lorenzo Ferguson has already served the majority of his five-year prison sentence. On Monday, 14th Judicial District Judge Richard P. Doucette released the man on personal recognizance despite objections by a prosecutor.

The Colorado Court of Appeals vacated Ferguson's prison sentence and ordered a new trial because of an incorrect reference Doucette made in the instructions he gave to the 12-member jury during Ferguson's trial in April 1999.

Ferguson has been behind bars since September 1998 for a confrontation he had with Warren Dean Hillbolt III outside City Market, 1800 Central Park Drive.

Ferguson was convicted by a jury of the class five felony for striking Hillbolt with a knife.

As a result, Hillbolt, 35, suffered a cut in his neck 6 1/2 inches long and 2 inches wide. The knife penetrated the muscle lining and a vein in Hillbolt's neck.

The fight escalated between Ferguson, who is black, and Hillbolt, who is white, after the two men exchanged racial epithets in the parking lot. Ferguson claims he struck Hillbolt in self-defense.

Ferguson's conviction was reversed because during the three-day trial, Doucette erroneously referred to "deadly physical force" when giving the jury a self-defense instruction.

Despite the objection of Ferguson's court-appointed attorney, William Schurman, Doucette defined "deadly physical force" for the jury.

The court of appeals ruled the instruction should not have included the "deadly physical force" reference because Hillbolt did not die.

"Self-defense instruction concerning deadly physical force should only be used if the victim dies," the ruling states.

Because of the ruling, a release hearing was held Monday. Ferguson pleaded with Doucette to let him out of prison until his new trial in October.

Ferguson said he has been a "model inmate" while serving his sentence at the Colorado Department of Corrections' facility in Sterling.

"I'm trying to get my life together," Ferguson said. "I messed up. I have been doing well in prison. I have a job lined up.

"Judge Doucette, give me a break. I can be a productive member of society. I'm no dummy."

Doucette released Ferguson from prison about two months before the man's prison sentence expires. Ferguson's mandatory release date from prison is July 28.

"I'm not inclined to hold him in jail until the new trial," Doucette said.

Although Doucette released the man, Ferguson was warned he would end up back in prison if he should get in trouble before the trial or fail to appear in court.

Doucette said a violation would result in a felony charge, which carries a mandatory sentence of one year in prison.

Ferguson asked to be released Monday because he wants to start working on a transportation project in Denver.

Deputy District Attorney David Moffat attempted to keep Ferguson behind bars through a number of legal arguments.

First, Moffat asked for Doucette to set Ferguson's bail in the amount of $2,000. Moffat asked for the amount because Ferguson will be retried on a charge of first-degree assault. Moffat also asked for the amount because during the hearing, Ferguson said he would not be able to post bail.

"I have nothing," Ferguson said. "Let me go, so I can get my life back on track."

Moffat also argued Ferguson has a lengthy criminal past and pointed out the man has served time in prison in Georgia for selling cocaine.

"This is a serious case," Moffat said. "And we have a track record of a defendant who continues to violate the law when he is let out."

Schurman said his client has a strong case to clear his name during the upcoming trial.

"The people's case is in worse shape than when it went to trial," Schurman said.

Schurman pointed out Hillbolt is serving a three-year prison sentence for shooting a man at his Yampa residence in December 2000.

A 12-member jury convicted Hillbolt of first-degree assault after a four-day trial last August. Doucette sentenced Hillbolt in September.

A jury did not believe Hillbolt's claims he shot 24-year-old Jared Williams in the shoulder in self-defense. "The victim is now a convicted felon," Schurman said.

Ferguson's next court appearance is set for 11 a.m. June 10.

On that day, Ferguson will be expected to submit to a drug test.

"Don't get into any trouble," Doucette said to Ferguson as he left the courtroom. "I don't want Mr. Moffat telling me, 'I told you so.'"

Kenneth Lorenzo Ferguson has already served the majority of his five-year prison sentence. On Monday, 14th Judicial District Judge Richard P. Doucette released the man on personal recognizance despite objections by a prosecutor.

The Colorado Court of Appeals vacated Ferguson's prison sentence and ordered a new trial because of an incorrect reference Doucette made in the instructions he gave to the 12-member jury during Ferguson's trial in April 1999.

Ferguson has been behind bars since September 1998 for a confrontation he had with Warren Dean Hillbolt III outside City Market, 1800 Central Park Drive.

Ferguson was convicted by a jury of the class five felony for striking Hillbolt with a knife.

As a result, Hillbolt, 35, suffered a cut in his neck 6 1/2 inches long and 2 inches wide. The knife penetrated the muscle lining and a vein in Hillbolt's neck.

The fight escalated between Ferguson, who is black, and Hillbolt, who is white, after the two men exchanged racial epithets in the parking lot. Ferguson claims he struck Hillbolt in self-defense.

Ferguson's conviction was reversed because during the three-day trial, Doucette erroneously referred to "deadly physical force" when giving the jury a self-defense instruction.

Despite the objection of Ferguson's court-appointed attorney, William Schurman, Doucette defined "deadly physical force" for the jury.

The court of appeals ruled the instruction should not have included the "deadly physical force" reference because Hillbolt did not die.

"Self-defense instruction concerning deadly physical force should only be used if the victim dies," the ruling states.

Because of the ruling, a release hearing was held Monday. Ferguson pleaded with Doucette to let him out of prison until his new trial in October.

Ferguson said he has been a "model inmate" while serving his sentence at the Colorado Department of Corrections' facility in Sterling.

"I'm trying to get my life together," Ferguson said. "I messed up. I have been doing well in prison. I have a job lined up.

"Judge Doucette, give me a break. I can be a productive member of society. I'm no dummy."

Doucette released Ferguson from prison about two months before the man's prison sentence expires. Ferguson's mandatory release date from prison is July 28.

"I'm not inclined to hold him in jail until the new trial," Doucette said.

Although Doucette released the man, Ferguson was warned he would end up back in prison if he should get in trouble before the trial or fail to appear in court.

Doucette said a violation would result in a felony charge, which carries a mandatory sentence of one year in prison.

Ferguson asked to be released Monday because he wants to start working on a transportation project in Denver.

Deputy District Attorney David Moffat attempted to keep Ferguson behind bars through a number of legal arguments.

First, Moffat asked for Doucette to set Ferguson's bail in the amount of $2,000. Moffat asked for the amount because Ferguson will be retried on a charge of first-degree assault. Moffat also asked for the amount because during the hearing, Ferguson said he would not be able to post bail.

"I have nothing," Ferguson said. "Let me go, so I can get my life back on track."

Moffat also argued Ferguson has a lengthy criminal past and pointed out the man has served time in prison in Georgia for selling cocaine.

"This is a serious case," Moffat said. "And we have a track record of a defendant who continues to violate the law when he is let out."

Schurman said his client has a strong case to clear his name during the upcoming trial.

"The people's case is in worse shape than when it went to trial," Schurman said.

Schurman pointed out Hillbolt is serving a three-year prison sentence for shooting a man at his Yampa residence in December 2000.

A 12-member jury convicted Hillbolt of first-degree assault after a four-day trial last August. Doucette sentenced Hillbolt in September.

A jury did not believe Hillbolt's claims he shot 24-year-old Jared Williams in the shoulder in self-defense. "The victim is now a convicted felon," Schurman said.

Ferguson's next court appearance is set for 11 a.m. June 10.

On that day, Ferguson will be expected to submit to a drug test.

"Don't get into any trouble," Doucette said to Ferguson as he left the courtroom. "I don't want Mr. Moffat telling me, 'I told you so.'"

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