Man acquitted of attempted murder charges in Steamboat Springs
October 23, 2013
Steamboat Springs — In a clear victory for the Routt County Public Defender's Office, Steven Torres no longer has to fear spending the rest of his life in prison.
After hearing three days of testimony, a Routt County jury acquitted Torres of three counts of attempted first-degree murder and illegally discharging a firearm. Instead, the jury found Torres guilty of felony menacing and three counts of misdemeanor reckless endangerment.
"Thank you so much," Torres said to Public Defender Sheryl Uhlmann after the verdict was read by Judge Shelley Hill.
Uhlmann declined to comment about the verdict.
Whether Torres fired a single gunshot into a downtown Steamboat Springs bar on the evening of June 8, 2012, was not disputed, but lawyers disagreed on why Torres fired the shot.
Prosecutors argued it was a shot to kill. The defense said it was a shot to scare.
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One attempted murder charge was filed for each of the bar employees who were in the area where the bullet struck the floor.
Torres looked relieved after the verdict was announced.
If Torres had been found guilty of all three attempted murder charges and the jury had determined it was a crime of violence, Torres would have faced a minimum of 48 years and a maximum of 144 years in prison.
Each of the three Class 3 misdemeanors of which Torres was found guilty carry a minimum of a $50 fine and a maximum sentence of six months in jail.
The Class 5 felony menacing charge carries a presumptive sentence of one to three years in prison.
Given the presumptive sentences, Torres in total could face as many as 4 1/2 years of incarceration.
"Although we are deeply disappointed with the result, we appreciate the service of the jurors and respect their decision in the case," Brett Barkey said in a news release.
Barkey would not discuss what, if any, plea deals had been offered to Torres before the case went to trial.
"I don't think it's appropriate to discuss plea negotiations about specific cases in public since such discussions are not admissible in court under Colorado law," Barkey wrote in an email.
Steamboat Springs Police Department Chief Joel Rae wrote in an email that he appreciated the attentiveness, time and consideration of the jury and its decision.
"As a police department, we will debrief this case with the District Attorney's Office, try to identify any weaknesses, and we will take away any lessons learned moving forward,” he wrote.
Judge Hill ordered the probation department to do a standard investigation on Torres before he is sentenced Dec. 12. The investigation will look into Torres' past, and the probation department could recommend a sentence.
When leaving the Routt County Justice Center, jurors Bob White and Peter Rouslin said the District Attorney's Office failed to prove the attempted murder charges beyond a reasonable doubt.
"Those charges seemed a bit steep to begin with," Rouslin said.
Both men talked highly about their experience being jurors and praised the professionalism of Judge Hill.
"All 12 of us thought Judge Hill did a remarkable job," White said.