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One suspect in Basalt assault, kidnapping case pleads not guilty

One of the two suspects in a Basalt assault and kidnapping case rejected a plea offer Wednesday and pleaded not guilty to more than a dozen charges he is facing.

Mufasta Muhammad elected to proceed to trial in April after rejecting an offer from the 5th Judicial District Attorney’s Office to plead guilty to a reduced charge of one count of felony assault. His attorney, public defender Kevin Jensen, said the offer required a stipulated sentence of seven to 10 years in the Colorado Department of Corrections.

Prosecutor Johnny Lombardi said the offer actually carried a 10-year sentence.

“Either way, we reject the offer,” Jensen said. “We’re rejecting that offer and setting for trial.”

Mufasta Muhammad

Lombardi said a trial would likely take seven days. Muhammad and his roommate, Daniel Wettstein, are accused of holding a man against his will and beating him at the Willits townhome where Wettstein and Muhammad were living in at the time.

A night of partying allegedly turned violent Aug. 27. The alleged victim escaped through a second-story window the next morning and called for help. The Basalt Police Department and multiple other law enforcement agencies responded and surrounded the area with weapons drawn due to the violent nature of the episode. Wettstein surrendered without incident. Muhammad gave up hours later after a SWAT team responded to the scene.

Muhammad was charged in September with three counts of assault in the first degree, one count of second-degree kidnapping, two counts of assault in the second degree, robbery, menacing, violation of bail conditions, possession with the intent to manufacture or distribute a controlled substance, conspiracy — controlled substance, unlawful possession of a controlled substance, violation of a protection order and false imprisonment. All charges are felonies except the last two.

Wettstein is facing 10 felony charges for assault, kidnapping and menacing. He has waived his right to a preliminary hearing and is seeking treatment for addictions in a Las Vegas program for U.S. military veterans. Muhammad has remained in Eagle County Jail since his arrest.

Eagle County District Judge Paul Dunkelman ordered Muhammad to appear Jan. 6 for a formal advisement of the charges and a bond hearing. He asked Lombardi to file information before that hearing that shows how many years Muhammad would be in prison if convicted of the charges. Meanwhile, he wants the plea offer left on the table.

Assault in the first degree was enhanced as a crime of violence, so that charge alone would carry a mandatory sentence of 10 to 32 years in the Colorado Department of Corrections, according to the conversation between attorneys at Wednesday’s hearing. Dunkelman wants Lombardi to spell out the full range of sentences on all charges and if they would be served concurrently or consecutively.

Muhammad is being held on $25,000 bond. Lombardi noted that Muhammad also has a felony case pending in Garfield County for second-degree assault in an unrelated matter.

Jensen disclosed that Muhammad also had a deferred judgment in a felony burglary case at the time of the alleged crimes in Basalt.

scondon@aspentimes.com