Bad jail behavior gets Gypsum man state prison time
EAGLE — A Gypsum man saw a possible sentence to probation and residential treatment for drug abuse problems turn into a two-year prison sentence Wednesday because of his behavior in the Eagle County jail.
According to court records, John C. Brown, 30, was arrested in August for breaking into a semi-trailer at a Gypsum tow yard and stealing items, and charged with burglary, theft, trespass, possession of burglary tools and introduction of contraband to the jail for possession of suspected methamphetamine while being booked, all felonies.
While in jail for four months before bonding out, prosecutors said Brown had nine major disciplinary write-ups and saw two new felony assault charges filed against him for spitting on two deputies.
Brown allegedly spit on the deputies as they tried to put him in a restraint chair after he had been “donkey kicking” his cell door for an extended time. Brown had refused to stop, resulting in deputies pepper spraying his cell and donning gas masks to get him out.
At a sentencing hearing Wednesday, prosecutors requested four years in prison for Brown, who pleaded guilty to attempted second-degree assault and theft, felonies, and a misdemeanor drug charge. They noted Brown had not only spit on the jail deputies during a pandemic, but also sexually harassed jail staff, made derogatory racial comments, and threatened to hurt or kill them and their families.
“I’ve been working in jails over 16 years, and in my experience this was an extreme case that my staff and I dealt with,” Eagle County Detentions Capt. Greg Van Wyk told the court. “At no point was there a demonstration by Mr. Brown that he would be compliant. We had to use force a number of times to extract him from his cell due to excessive pounding, and the verbal threats and assaults was beyond anything someone should have to endure.”
Brown’s attorney, public defender Kevin Jensen, argued for probation and drug treatment, noting these are Brown’s first felony convictions, that he had already been punished for the write-ups in the jail, and that the original burglary case was a result of substance abuse problems.
“That is something he is trying to work on and fix. I don’t think (Colorado Department of Corrections) will be helpful to Mr. Brown to get a handle on these substance abuse issues and try to improve himself. He’s asking for the opportunity to show the court he can be successful,” Jensen said.
Brown apologized to the court for his “unacceptable” behavior in the jail. He said the jail time was overwhelming as he missed the first birthday of a child, adding he was “absolutely mistreated on several occasions.”
“Deputies didn’t need to gas me out, and I have pictures of lacerations on my arms from being cinched into the restraint chair. I know my action of spitting was unacceptable. I did it in the heat of the moment out of anger, but in my honest eyes I feel like I was assaulted,” Brown told the court.
Considering Brown’s sentence, Judge Paul R. Dunkelman ultimately ordered Brown to two years in state prison because of his behavior in the county jail, giving Brown credit for 133 days already served.
“I’ve had the captain come address the court before, jail deputies. Generally they are addressing the court for a reason most people wouldn’t guess, to come to be supportive of someone residing in the jail. To have the captain come and give those statements, that gives me pause. I struggle with that. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard that before,” Judge Dunkelman said, adding that in considering a probationary sentence for Brown, “I can’t get there.”
Tom Lotshaw can be reached at email@example.com.