Man, 23, pleads guilty in Breck killing
Outside the courtroom Tuesday, the family, friends and fellow church parishioners of Brandon Robbins joined hands and prayed, trying to bide the time until the 23-year-old Robbins would admit his guilt in the death of another man.Inside Summit County District Court, the surviving family and friends of Cody Wieland, whose death has brought both families to court in Breckenridge during the past 18 months, chatted anxiously, read a newspaper and watched Wieland’s widow, Katie, brush the hair of their 3 1/2-year-old son, Bohdan.When proceedings began, Robbins, in level, clipped responses, pleaded guilty to felony charges of manslaughter and second-degree assault. The admission could result in a sentence of up to 28 years in prison, which could be significantly shortened if his sentences are served concurrently.The district attorney charged Robbins with the felonies, along with additional charges of second-degree murder, first-degree assault and tampering with evidence, for his alleged role in an assault on Wieland on Breckenridge’s Main Street on Nov. 1, 2002. Those additional charges were dropped as part of the plea agreement approved by the judge Tuesday. Robbins’ acquiescence, first announced Monday, followed a failed attempt to move the trial out of Summit County. Robbins’ lawyer, Denver defense attorney Harvey Steinberg, had argued for months that the extensive publicity surrounding the case and the prior conviction of a fellow suspect would make it impossible for Robbins to receive a fair jury trial in Breckenridge.District Court Judge David Lass ruled Friday that Steinberg’s motion had not met the standard for “massive, pervasive and prejudicial” media coverage.In arguing against a change of venue last week, District Attorney Mark Hurlbert had said that moving the trial would deprive Summit County citizens of their right to hear the evidence and reach their own conclusion in a trial. But, to answer the judge’s question as to why he should consider an 11th-hour plea agreement when the deadline for such proposals expired April 20, Hurlbert said Tuesday that the deal would save the victim’s family and the witnesses the “emotional anguish” of going through another trial.The agreement is, Hurlbert said, consistent with the outcome of the case against a fellow suspect in the death. In January, a jury found Brian Stockdale guilty of manslaughter and first-degree assault. The next month, Lass sentenced him to 28 years in prison.”It’s a fine line of what justice dictates,” Hurlbert said in an interview following the pleading, referring to citizens’ right to hear a trial versus a plea agreement. “It’s their right, but as the last trial showed, it can be hard on a jury, too. I think justice will be served this way.”
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