Suspect in Breck beating to take minor felony rap
Justice might be blind, but she’s also creative – at least in the case of Michael Scott Dietert, as a judge finally accepted a the young man’s guilty plea in connection to the beating death of a man in Breckenridge two years ago.After seven unsuccessful attempts at a plea bargain over the past 21 months, a judge finally accepted a guilty plea to a charge that, by the letter of the law, has nothing to do with the crime of which Dietert was charged.Judges rejected the seven previous pleas despite endorsements from attorneys on both sides.
Dietert, 22, was one of three men charged in the Halloween 2002 assault on Cody Wieland. Wieland died nine days later when he was removed from life support.Dietert, along with the other two suspects, were arrested and charged with second-degree murder and first-degree assault.Witness accounts and physical evidence, however, indicated to prosecutors that Dietert was the least culpable in the death, having only punched and restrained the victim while the other two kicked Wieland in the head and chest and bashed him with a military helmet. In addition to his limited involvement, Dietert also was prepared to testify against the other two men, Brandon Robbins and Brian Stockdale.
Dietert offered to take the witness stand and describe how the three discussed fighting the victim, intending to cause him harm and explain which suspect was doing what. Because the attack occurred in the middle of the night, and because witnesses’ memories were clouded by the time it took to bring the cases to trial, prosecutors believed Dietert’s testimony might have helped them secure convictions on the murder charges.So, District Attorney Mark Hurlbert and Dietert’s defense attorney, Daniel Recht, set out to craft a plea agreement. Dietert pleaded guilty Tuesday to an assault charge related to the illegal administration of drugs or intoxicants, with a caveat for a crime committed “in the heat of passion.” The felony will likely result prison sentence that pales in comparison to the 28-year sentence already handed down to one of the other suspects.
Jocelan Martell, the mother of the victim, spoke at Tuesday’s hearing urging the judge not to side with the district attorney’s recommendation for probation when Dietert’s sentencing hearing arrives. But Martell said after the hearing that she sympathizes with Dietert, who, through his attorney, contacted Martell months after the attack and met with her to apologize for what had happened. “If he is sentenced to prison, I will go visit him,” Martell said. “I’ll try to give him the courage to get through and get out and become a productive member of society. I think he’s just a good young man out of sorts, affected by drugs and drink and wrapped up in horrible events.”The judge scheduled Dietert’s sentencing hearing for Sept. 22.