Gonzalez admits assaulting Brush Creek bartender; his attorney argues it was not attempted murder
EAGLE — Pedro Gonzalez admitted he attacked the female bartender working by herself in the Brush Creek Saloon. The video screened in the courtroom on Monday, June 4, showed that in graphic detail.
However, he testified that he was drunk, despondent and missing his family and that she became frustrated with him and called him an “effing wetback,” Gonzalez’ defense attorney Thea Reiff told the jury Monday afternoon.
“This trial is not about innocence. You saw the video,” Reiff said, referring to Brush Creek Saloon security footage showing Gonzales pummeling Richterova.
“That’s not what this case is about. This was an assault. It was not an attempted first degree murder with deliberation,” Reiff told the jury.
Gonzalez, a Texas native, is charged with attempted murder for allegedly trying to beat Richterova to death, first with a beer bottle and then with his fists, kicks and strangulation.
Reiff argued that Gonzalez committed assault, not attempted murder.
“While there is no defense or justification, there is a reason,” Reiff said. “No one is saying she deserved this, that it’s OK to assault her. He is absolutely guilty of assaulting Ms. Richterova, but this is not an attempted murder.”
Reiff said that’s not a reason or justification, and in no way does that make this assault OK.
However, that term, “wetback,” was the turning point that turned an otherwise normal night into this assault.
“I have no doubt that she had no idea of the impact it would have,” Reiff told the jury.
Testifying in his own defense
Gonzalez is small and soft-spoken. He said he was nervous when he took the stand.
“How do you feel about talking in front of people who saw you do what you did in that video?” Reiff asked.
“Pretty horrible,” Gonzalez answered.
“Did you assault Ms. Richterova?”
“Yes, I did,” Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez testified that he went to the Brush Creek Saloon around midnight July 24, 2017, because he was hungry. He rents a bedroom from a family in Eagle’s Juniper townhomes and eats most of his meals out. He asked Richterova if the kitchen was still open. It was not, she told him.
So he ordered a beer.
He struck up a conversation with some other people in the bar and had four or five beers before switching to Jack Daniels and Coke.
It was a slow Sunday night, and Richterova, the only employee in the saloon, was trying to close early.
Gonzalez was born in Texas and is a U.S. citizen. However, issues of immigration have touched his life, Reiff said. He fell in love with a Mexican national who became the mother of his two children.
They had two choices: Stay here and try to remain under the radar, or go to Mexico and try to re-enter the U.S. legally. To do that, he’d have to show he was earning $37,000 a year. The only work available to him in Juarez was as a busboy.
He took a job with an Eagle County roofing company but wasn’t making the $37,000 he needed to show immigration officials, so he could bring his wife and children to the U.S. legally.
So he and his family returned to Mexico in 2010 and he commuted from Juarez. That took two or three hours each way, depending on the lines he had to stand in. In 2013, he returned to Eagle County to work for the same roofing company.
This continued for the better part of a decade.
What he remembers of that night
Gonzalez didn’t know Richterova before that night, he said.
Around 1 a.m., he asked for another beer. She said she was going to close but gave it to him anyway, Gonzalez said.
At first he tried to pay with a $100 bill, but Richterova did not have change, so he paid her with a $20 — the $120 left on the bar during the assault.
“She was getting upset. She might have thought I was being annoying,” Gonzalez said.
He said he remembered her saying “F–king wetback.”
“I remembered it feeling horrible. I was trying to bring my wife and two children over here. They’d go to school and they might be called that, too. That word makes me angry,” Gonzalez said.
He said he remembers some of the assault and chasing Richterova out the saloon door and up Broadway Street. He remembers stopping the chase and turning toward his apartment a few hundred yards away up Third Street. He had to walk past the Eagle police station to get there.
He said he does not remember arriving at his apartment or falling asleep. He remembers waking up and realizing, “I was still drunk.”
He remembers feeling bad because “I hurt somebody.”
He says he snapped out of it, but slowly because he was still drunk. He remembers telling Richterova that he lives up the street.
That’s why he decided to stay home and wait because the police would likely soon find him. He decided not to run.
He was drinking a can of Modello because “I was very scared and nervous. I thought maybe the alcohol would calm me down.”
He got up, went to the restroom and returned to his bedroom.
“Did you realize that morning that you had beaten a woman?” Reiff asked him.
“Yes I did,” Gonzalez replied.
“How did you feel about that?”
“Awful. Horrible,” he said. “I woke up in the morning and thought, “Damn! What happened?”
But then he said he knew what had happened.
“He heard that derogatory term, he was missing his family, he was depressed because of what he considered his failings as a man. … He acted on anger, and he committed a terrible crime,” Reiff said.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and firstname.lastname@example.org.