EAGLE, Colorado - A jury took only 35 minutes to acquit an Eagle-Vail man of assaulting sheriff's deputies while he was in jail.
Patrick Fevala, 20, had been in jail since March 3, 2011, charged originally with criminal mischief for stuffing a sandwich in the tailpipe of a friend's car.
It was a practical joke, he said Wednesday after he finally walked out of the Eagle County jail a free man.
That charge was dropped, but a jail cell altercation with sheriff's deputies left him facing a felony charge of second-degree assault on a peace officer by a person in custody. If he'd been convicted, he would have been sentenced to a mandatory five-year prison term.
He has no previous criminal record, said Heather Beattie, his attorney.
Prosecutors had offered Fevala a deal to plead guilty to third degree assault, but he rejected it, choosing to take his chances in court.
"I didn't want to take it. I didn't do anything," Fevala said outside the courthouse. "I did what I had to do. It's easy to get pushed around these days."
After his arrest, Fevala spent 34 hours in an Eagle County jail in a padded holding cell with no phone call, according to testimony.
Deputies testified that he was being loud, disruptive and trying to hurt himself by hitting and kicking the walls of his padded jail cell, and that he was hitting himself in the legs.
Fevala testified that he was practicing his kickboxing to pass the time between breakfast and lunch as he began his third day in jail. He said he wasn't trying to cause a disturbance, but was singing Bob Marley's cover of the Otis Redding classic "(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay'" and drumming on his legs.
Deputies testified that he repeatedly told Fevala to stop, and he would for a time, then start again. They testified that they were afraid he would hurt himself, so five of them spent several minutes planning a "cell extraction."
They stormed his cell with an electric shield, tasered him at least six times, pulled him out of his cell and strapped him to a restraint chair.
When the deputies entered his cell, Fevala jumped to his feet and onto his bunk, and backed into a corner of his cell as the deputies approached, according to testimony.
When he fought back, one of the deputies suffered a broken hand and was on restricted duty for six months, prosecutors said.
The jury of eight women and three men went out just past noon Wednesday and was back 35 minutes later, not even bothering to order lunch. They did have to vote more than once, jurors said.
"This was justice," said Beattie.
Fevala is a Battle Mountain High School graduate. He played saxophone in the band, wrestled, and played lacrosse, he said. After graduation, he worked in the City Market deli and spent some of his money on kickboxing classes.
He said he was practicing kickboxing in his cell, hitting and kicking the padded walls.
"It felt good to just do something," Favela said. "I wasn't trying to be disruptive. I was just trying to pass the time."
He was arrested just before midnight March 3, and said he was upset because he'd been there three days with no phone call.
"I was supposed to get my phone call and I tried to make it known that I wanted my phone call," he testified.
Prosecutor Braden Angel said the deputies acted in the line of duty. They exhausted all the non-physical options available to them, Angel said.
"They were peace officers performing their duties, and are allowed use physical force to maintain order and discipline," Angel told the jury during closing arguments. "That phone call does not matter in the least."
Beattie asked the jury to see it from Favela's perspective.
"This 19-year-old was locked in a cell for 34 hours. He was never advised what his rights were. He was scared, you heard him testify, and he was in an unfamiliar place," Beattie told the jury. "He was left with greater injuries than he would have inflicted upon himself."
Four hours later, he was taken to the hospital, Beattie said.
"His minimal amount of resistance was met with five deputies, a blazing shield and tasers. Patrick pushed the electric shield away from him. It was an instinct.
"Imagine you're a scared 19-year-old kid. Reasonable people will stand up and back away. He acted reasonably to their over-reaction to him," Beattie said.
Just over a half hour later, the jury said it agreed.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or firstname.lastname@example.org.