How bad can a good man be?
Dressed up as they would for the Sunday church services they attend together, 50 of Brandon Robbins’ friends and family members filled a Breckenridge court room Monday in support of the 22-year-old, forming a congregation for a man charged with manslaughter.Robbins’ supporters, many fellow attendees of Agape Outpost, were at the Summit County Justice Center beseeching a judge to look upon Robbins with mercy and compassion, even praying for it outside the court room as the proceedings were in recess. Their pleas both outnumbered and stood in stark contrast to the plaintive requests of a dead man’s family – his widow, mother and other friends and family asking the judge to put Robbins in prison for as long as possible.Twenty-seven of Robbins’ supporters – brother, mother, best friends, future mother-in-law, college counselor and employer among them – took their turns eulogizing. Each used words like caring, unselfish, sensitive, character, strong, kind-hearted, mature, good, reliable, giving and respectful. Some cried while others spoke.And if the proceedings seemed in some ways funerary, it is because sometime today, when Robbins’ sentencing hearing is scheduled to close, he is expected to be sentenced to prison, with a maximum possible term of 28 years.
“When you sentence Brandon, you sentence us all,” Robbins’ aunt, Donnetta Guthrie, told the court, To the family sitting across the aisle, however, it would only be a modicum of justice.Robbins, a Breckenridge college student and construction worker, pleaded guilty in June to manslaughter and second-degree assault. Breckenridge police arrested and charged Robbins in the death of 36-year-old Cody Wieland, also a Summit County resident. According to witnesses and police reports, Robbins and two other men allegedly beat Wieland on Breckenridge’s Main Street in the early morning hours following Halloween 2002 after an altercation in a restaurant.Robbins was originally charged with second-degree murder, as well as a tampering with evidence charge because a costume military helmet he reportedly used in the assault was thrown away and never recovered.
To the family of Robbins’ victim, this was only the culmination of a dangerous pattern of behavior. Wieland’s friend, George Molloy, implored the judge to consider Robbins’ past: teenage run-ins with the law for drinking, an arrest for driving under the influence, and then an arrest for driving with revoked license; charges for cultivating marijuana; and, Robbins’ arrest last year for violating his bond conditions in the Wieland case.”This is not a good person,” Molloy said.Wieland’s wife and mother, in tears, spoke to the pain Wieland’s death brought. Katie Wieland, with the couple’s 3-year-old son sitting nearby, told of therapy sessions and nightmares, and how the struggle of single parenthood was thrust on her. “I have to pay someone else to raise my son,” she said.
But if Robbins’ family is to be believed, Wieland himself shares some blame in the tragedy. Robbins’ mother, Carla, stood at the dais in defense of her son, describing a disturbing scene just weeks before the assault.Reiterated by other defense witnesses Monday, Carla Robbins described how, returning home from her son’s 21st birthday party on Oct. 11, 2002, she was accosted in the street by Wieland. The mother alleged that the intoxicated Wieland made advances on her and followed the group back to her son’s apartment, gripping her and challenging the young men to a fight. They begged him off, giving him a $100 bill to convince him to leave, she said.Carla Robbins told the judge that she had not spoken up before to spare Wieland’s family the grief of besmirching his character. She cited how her sister, the late Sharon Garrison, was smeared in media reports during the trial that found Garrison’s husband, Chuck, guilty of murder.