Teen not guilty of assault

Defense: Student victim of racism

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— A Steamboat Springs High School freshman was found not guilty of felony assault charges and disorderly conduct in Routt County Court on Thursday. The boy's attorney said the altercation that led to the charges was the result of ongoing, race-related taunts that occurred while the defendant was an eighth-grader at Steamboat Springs Middle School.

Defense attorney Kris Hammond said his client would have faced a mandatory minimum sentence of one year in a juvenile detention facility if convicted on the second-degree assault and crime of violence charges. Instead, the six-member jury returned a verdict of not guilty after deliberating for less than an hour Thursday morning. The trial began Monday.

The District Attorney's Office filed the charges against the teen after a Feb. 15, 2007, incident at the middle school. According to Hammond, another eighth-grader had been tormenting his client, who is black, for more than a month with derogatory remarks and names, including the N word. Hammond said the other student referred to his client as a slave and one day drew a swastika that he showed to the defendant and a Jewish student during class.

Hammond said his client never told school administrators about the incidents. Steamboat Springs Middle School Principal Tim Bishop confirmed that he was never made aware of any of the alleged racist remarks or behavior.

During the school day Feb. 15, Hammond said his client told the other boy to stop making racist remarks. If he didn't, the defendant warned, he would punch him. A short time later, Hammond said, the other student and one of his friends approached the defendant in the school's gym. The friend pushed the defendant, Hammond said, after which the other boy stepped forward and made a "quick movement with his hands."

The defendant reacted by punching the boy in the mouth. The blow broke the boy's jaw.

Charges were filed against the defendant after the incident was brought to the attention of police. Deputy District Attorney Andrew Heyl, who prosecuted the case, did not return a phone call left after hours at the DA's Office. Heyl doesn't have a listed phone number.

Hammond said neither his client nor the victim of his punch were disciplined by the school district. No charges were filed against the boy who is alleged to have provoked the fight. Both boys testified during the trial.

Hammond successfully argued that his client acted in self defense and that the history of interaction between the two boys constituted a threat to the defendant.

The boy's broken jaw led to the second-degree assault charge, a Class 4 felony, Hammond said. Because his client is a juvenile, a conviction on the crime of violence charge would have necessitated the teen being taken out of his home for at least a year.

When the not guilty verdict was read, the defendant's family was "crying - tears of joy, tears of relief," Hammond said.

The defendant's family declined to talk about the case Thursday, but said they would speak with Pilot & Today reporters today.

- To reach Brent Boyer, call 871-4221

or e-mail bboyer@steamboatpilot.com

Comments

seeuski 6 years, 11 months ago

letomayo, Scott Stanford's self promoting article that you mention was pretty bad for sure.Can you imagine what the tourists felt like reading that junk? yuk.

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another_local 6 years, 11 months ago

Good job Kris. I hope the boy that started this mess with his comments is getting a good talking to. He deserved the punch.

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raver 6 years, 11 months ago

This stuff happens more than we'd like to think it does because kids don't report .There is alot of racial bullying and division here.Thank you Kris Hammond for defending this young man.

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Tom3 6 years, 11 months ago

Let this be a lesson to all you white trash redneck racist Repukes. Your days of bullying the rest of us are OVER.

A big change is coming. We may have a woman or a black man in the oval office a year from now.

You better get used to it. Time to stop dragging your knuckles and start acting like human beings. And stop having children by your siblings too.

Since none of you Chimpyloving morons can actually read, please have this read to you by an intelligent person. You can tell them by the anti-war and Democrat stickers on their car.

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Shawna 6 years, 11 months ago

Kudos to Randall for standing up for himself. It sounds like that kid got what he deserved.

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nikobesti 6 years, 11 months ago

Sweet. Hey you bully, how did you like eating out of a straw for 4 weeks? Get tired of blender food? What about the looks and smirks you got a school with your big mouth wired shut? Priceless. Randall Nelson, you are my hero.

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id04sp 6 years, 11 months ago

Gosh, Uncle Tom3, tell us how you really feel.

Well, I guess Kris Hammond does occasionally defend someone who deserves acquittal.

The bully deserved the broken jaw, and I hope they've all learned a lesson.

Oh, yeah, this young black man just learned that if you get the right lawyer and play the race card, you don't have to bother with going through the system to obtain a non-violent resolution to such conditions.

The teachers are very lucky that this young man chose to take his anger out on his tormenter with his fists. Allowing things like this to go on in the schools is the reason why other kids come back with a gun. Here's a tip; when you leave the class unattended to go hit on your sweetheart in the teacher's lounge, the kids take advantage of your absence. How about teachers doing their jobs and maintaining control so that this kind of atrocity does not occur in the future.

None of this had to happen if the schools actually did something other than talk about problems. Waiting for a kid to snitch is like waiting for Christ to come again. It may happen one day, but in the meantime, the kids being victimized still need protection. Kids don't snitch, and that's how it is. Snitching gives ALL of the bullies a reason to join in, and that sort of intimidation is exactly why the schools should be proactive in preventing abuse.

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solman 6 years, 11 months ago

well my first comment was removed: great job Kris. way to keep your poise and calm during a tough trial. i know it's your job, but you are still greatly appreciated... much peace and luv

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older_dude 6 years, 11 months ago

Why would the DA's office even prosecute such an obvious case of just desserts? The Denver Post seems to wonder the same in its article at http://www.denverpost.com/ci_7939049

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Tom3 6 years, 11 months ago

Colorado students DO have a place they can call if they are being bullied or see criminal activity in their school.

Safe-2-Tell is a free confidential hotline open 24/7/365.

Their toll-free number is 1-877-542-SAFE.

It is unfortunate this student did not have enough confidence in his school administrators to come forward and report these bullying incidents.

Other students probably witnessed them too and did not come forward. Steamboat needs to review its school safety plan and anti-bullying policy, because whatever they are doing...it is NOT working.

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blahblahblah 6 years, 11 months ago

Liberals aren't supposed to be hate mongerers, Tom3. Didn't anyone tell you?

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raver 6 years, 11 months ago

Too bad we have administrators that students don't respect nor trust,or think that they just don't care about the students.

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nikobesti 6 years, 11 months ago

Id04sp: First off all, it's YOU playing the race card. This case came down to bullying and self defense, not race.

Secondly, since when did teachers become law enforcement officers? "This is all the teachers' fault." Give me a break. You would need to triple or quadruple the teachers to be able to see and hear every case of bullying. If the school hired more teachers, more even more expensive disciplinary-types you would go on about wasting your tax dollars. I have an idea: why don't YOU get off your *** and go volunteer to patrol the halls instead of sit behind a computer and complaining about it?

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corduroy 6 years, 11 months ago

I'm so glad to hear this turned out how it did. I know the complete story and family and they are all the sweetest people. It's horrible to hear it so close to home that racism is still so rampant, even in our little mountain town.

I'm so proud of you!

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twostroketerror 6 years, 11 months ago

Maybe some kind of surveillance system for the school? Oh wait, we wouldn't want to infringe on anyones right to ignorant, hateful behavior.

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StillStacy 6 years, 11 months ago

Tom3; Geezuz, grow a brain. I'm a proud Republican who grinned ear to ear after I read this white boy had his jaw broken.

Your choice of words doesn't exactly scream intelligence. Way to represent your party.

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Benny 6 years, 11 months ago

Wow, nice to see this juvenile taking this to court and standing up for himself. Most are pressured into taking the plea so that they don't have to face a possible harsher sentence. This teen had the support he needed and the end result has got to be a huge self-esteem booster for him. The Denver Post article tells more of this story, if anyone hasn't read it, you should.

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wish2domore 6 years, 11 months ago

id04sp, who are you and why do you have such a crappy attitude and outlook on EVERYTHING??? Who spits in your beancurd everymorning? You are such an idiot! Are you paid to just stir up controversial views or do you just not really read things as written? You should stop taking the first work of each sentence, disregarding the rest and coming up with your own version of what has been written!! wow! Get some prozac!!

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justathought 6 years, 11 months ago

[Too bad we have administrators that students don't respect nor trust,or think that they just don't care about the students.] I think that statement is pure crap, think back to your time in school especially if you're over thirty. Our generation didn't run whining to a teacher when we were bullied (teased) either, and it wasn't because we didn't respect our teachers so quit trying to blame the administrators. I haven't seen "racism" or "bullying 101" on any routt county school curriculum so I bet the kids are learning this kind of crap at home, police your own kids and let the educators educate. Maybe Tom3's intelligent people with anti-war and Democrat stickers on their cars will come up with another tax to fund another social program that allows society to raise your kids so you don't have to.

The DA should never have prosecuted this case!

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babette dickson 6 years, 11 months ago

All my best to the Nelsons. They are indeed the most caring, genuine people I know. They raise children with a LOT of differences and stand up for them. Mr Hammond, Congrat from all of us! Now the district has to pay the attorney fees for the Nelsons... should we ask the former Superintendent who bailed out with many 100K??? That person was ultimately responsible for what is happening in the school... Hopefully our schools will learn a lesson and teach all about diversity... awareness.... differences.... respect....

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blackthroatedwind 6 years, 11 months ago

I don't care how much the schools teach, it ultimately comes down to the parents to teach morals to their own children. Its not the school's job t teach about diversity, etc. Bullies have been around since the dawn of time, and the time honored tradition of dealing with bullies leaves 2 choices. Keep on getting bullied or kick the snot out of them. Congrats to the kid who threw the punch. He had no way of knowing the bully had a glass jaw, and I'm sure his intent was not to break that jaw. In my opinion, schoolyard fights should not be prosecuted in a court of law. At least justice was done, its nice to see our courts occasionally make the right decision in juvenile cases like this.

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babette dickson 6 years, 11 months ago

School has its responsibility to teach kids some values and ideas about how to live with "other than white color" kids, special needs kids, kids with different sexual orientation... etc. for a simple reason: kids are living with teachers and administrators 8 hours per day 3/4 of the year! If we rely on parents only - blackthroatwind- ... please give me a break... you might be aware so many parents are NOT backing up educators and give thumbs up to their misbehaved kids... time has changed. Randall, Deb, Brad have my full support. The school messed up big time by covering up the problem, probably thinking it would go away.... now the district's legal fund will go down to settling in a civil suit... Who pays for this: We, the tax payers... for the School and DA stupidity! Good job to the most incompetent DA office in the history of the world, and to a district whose former leadership was the worse I've ever observed.

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mud 6 years, 11 months ago

Is "white trash" a racial slur? What is the "N word?"

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Pres Plumb 6 years, 11 months ago

If the Denver Post article is accurate, the DA's office decided to prosecute this case despite knowing that a Sheriff's Deputy was to testify that he had advised the defendant that he - the defendant - had the right to defend himself against the bully and that "if he ever felt threatened to make a fist and punch the guy in the mouth". SAY WHAT????!!!! Who's in charge of this asylum?

sbvor, the cost to defend himself from this frivolous prosecution and the endless hours of distress for him and his family is the undeniable result of flagrant abuse of prosecutorial power. Seems to be par for the course for this outfit!

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Scott Wedel 6 years, 11 months ago

Another bad prosecution by the local DA. A victim of bullying using fists in a fight to stop being bullied is not the stuff of felony criminal prosecution. Felony trials are not held so that the right thing can happen if there is a not guilty verdict. What if the jury had been as misguided as the prosecution? Steamboat would have made news for justice gone awry once again.

The N word is a racial slur of powerful historical impact. That it is the racial slur of all racial slurs is clear because no other slur has been seriously debated whether anyone should ever use the word as black comedians and rappers have had over whether they should stop using it.

It is ridiculous to compare using the slur "white trash" to the N word. If being in our very white city has resulted in people so ignorant to not see the difference then we need to invite people such as the NAACP here to teach the ignorant about racial history.

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stompk 6 years, 11 months ago

Broke his jaw? Good shot!

There has never been room for bigots in Steamboat.

We get people from all over the world here.

For the DA to prosecute this case shows that we

need to replace them too.

If a kid can't stand up for himself, we might as well abolish the second amendment and take guns away from everyone.

This is about the right to life without judgement from losers.

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madmoores 6 years, 11 months ago

older_dude: "Why would the DA's office even prosecute such an obvious case of just desserts? The Denver Post seems to wonder the same in its article"

Justathought: " The DA should never have prosecuted this case!"

felix: "Good job to the most incompetent DA office in the history of the world"

presplumb: "The cost to defend himself from this frivolous prosecution and the endless hours of distress for him and his family is the undeniable result of flagrant abuse of prosecutorial power. Seems to be par for the course for this outfit!"(I assume referring to the DA)

Scott_Wedel: "Another bad prosecution by the local DA."

Stompk: "For the DA to prosecute this case shows that we need to replace them too."

All I can say to comments like the above is that "you had your chance". As a committee member attempting to remove the DA and her staff I can attest that comments like these, and sometimes lengthy stories about how someone was railroaded by her, were all I would hear going door-to-door collecting signatures on the petition. I'm not coming down on anyone and certainly not on those whose quotes I have used as an example in my post but I have always believed that if you don't get up and act, you can't bitch later. How many posting on this forum signed any petition to remove DA bonnie roesink from office? Hands? Hopefully some of you did. I think she has less than a year remaining and I would hope with the amount of discontent that she would not run for re-election.

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letomayo 6 years, 11 months ago

I don't know why my comment was removed earlier. I said a coach used the word "beaner" referring to Latinos. Is that why? I couldn't say he used the B word or someone would not have gotten what the caoch said. The Pilot is over zelous with its removal.

Didn't Stanford try to sho us how much he liked black people in his town when he was growing up when the black skiers were here. And someone called him on not reproting what any black people had to say who were visitng? His kind of bigotry is rampant in our town and county and country. We act like we are so noble and above it all but our actions say I can tell everyone how much I like them as long as I don't have to go talk to them and ask them what they think.

Yeh those little southern towns are the epitomy of racial equality and love between black and white neighbors and so is this little white town.

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armchairqb 6 years, 11 months ago

I'm all for standing up for oneself. Nice job Randall. I just hope the city council doesn't find the need to retry your case, because the outcome won't be the same and then they'll just increase your punishment for standing up to the DA's office.

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dave reynolds 6 years, 11 months ago

why arent the punks names listed in the paper too..we as a community should be informed of these bigots..(childern as well as parents) so we can keep our childern away from them..children learn from thier parents so these bullies should be identified

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