BRECKENRIDGE - Dustin Meadows pleaded guilty Tuesday to misdemeanor charges of ethnic intimidation and assault stemming from a bar fight where he pulled about half the hair out of a black woman's head.
Meadows, 37, who is white, was sentenced to 60 days in jail and three years' probation among other punishments regarding the Dec. 5 incident.
The victim said in court before the sentencing that she has trouble looking at herself in the mirror and having to "put on a wig and smiley faces."
"I have nightmares," she said. "And I probably will for the rest of my life."
Meadows became emotional and tearful through the court session, and Summit County Court Judge Rachel J. Olguin-Fresquez said his "remorse appears to be genuine."
A friend and a family member both spoke on behalf of Meadows, who had no prior criminal record.
Kristine Word with the Fifth Judicial District Attorney's office prosecuted the case, which originally included felony bias-motivated assault among five charges. Tuesday's plea to class 1 misdemeanors of "harassment and ethnic intimidation" and third-degree assault was the result of a plea agreement.
Word said the incident last month began after a casual conversation at the Cala Inn in Summit Cove.
"I don't believe Mr. Meadows targeted (the victim) because of her race," she said.
But after Meadows - who had been drinking heavily that night - spilled a beer on the victim, an argument ensued.
"Mr. Meadows went off from zero to 100 to 1,000 in absolutely no time whatsoever," Word said.
She said Meadows' "reprehensible" speech toward the woman included the "n-word" and the "c-word."
The exchange turned violent when Meadows grabbed the victim by her hair to pull her out of the bar.
Word said half the hair was pulled from her head causing a "substantial amount of pain," and Word showed Judge Rachel J. Olguin-Fresquez photos of the victim after the incident.
Word said it all could have ended with an apology, "not with ripping out half a head of hair from a woman he never met before."
Brad Sutor, a friend and co-worker of Meadows, said he'd worked with Meadows among people of "all different races and creeds" and "never saw any animosity."
"In the past few years, I've seen him struggle with alcohol dependance," Sutor said. "He hasn't had a drop since (the incident)."
JB Katz, attorney for Meadows, said her client was "extremely upset" about the incident and had shed many tears.
She said a jail sentence "isn't going to change how impacted he is by this."
Katz also said Meadows has been attending an alcoholics support group.
"The only way to not have that person come out is to not have any alcohol," she said.
The maximum allowable jail time for the two charges was 60 days for each, but the victim said that wasn't sufficient.
"Four months does not seem to be enough time," the victim said when she spoke before the sentencing. "In four months my hair will grow an inch. That's not enough."
The woman's mother also spoke before the court of the incident's effect on her daughter's life.
Olguin-Fresquez sentenced Meadows to 60 days total in jail with work release and three years' supervised probation with conditions that he not use alcohol or drugs, or commit other crimes.
He also is required to pay $600 in fines and $279 for fees, complete 120 hours of public service and write letters to the victim and the Summit Daily. He'll also have to pay $50 per month in fees for probation.
Restitution is left open for 180 days, as Word had explained the victim is seeing a dermatologist and it may take that long for necessary treatment.
Olguin-Fresquez said Meadows' words Dec. 5 "to shock and to convey power and dominance are carried in these terms based on a person's gender and based on a person's race."
She said there's no reason to doubt the incident has harmed the Summit County community.
Robert Allen can be contacted at (970) 668-4628 or firstname.lastname@example.org.