Rockne receives two-years deferred judgment in domestic-violence case
June 23, 2008
Over the objections of his accuser, Breckenridge scion Eric Rockne pleaded no contest on Monday to criminal mischief and was given a deferred judgment for two years after originally facing attempted-murder charges stemming from an alleged domestic attack.
Rockne was accused of savagely beating his then-girlfriend in November of 2006. She was hospitalized with a ruptured bladder, which required life-saving surgery and several days of recovery in the intensive-care unit.
The deferred judgment means Rockne will not face imprisonment, given that he abides by the terms of his probation.
“We think this deal is outrageous,” said John Clune, lawyer for the accuser. “The DA originally stated they could prove this case beyond any reasonable doubt, and now they are letting him walk away with no conviction and no jail time.”
But Deputy District Attorney Kristine Word and Rockne’s defense attorney, Larry Pozner, suggested that the woman’s lack of credibility would have undermined the case.
She has had numerous criminal tangles, including arrests for illegal use of prescription drugs and driving under the influence, and she has leveled accusations of sexual assault against other men that prosecutors declined to pursue.
In April 2007, the accuser was charged with arson, criminal mischief and domestic violence after she was arrested on suspicion of trying to burn down the home of a former boyfriend with whom she was living.
“Not every complaining witness is a victim, and witness credibility was nonexistent in this case,” Pozner said.
Rockne is the son of prominent Breckenridge real-estate agent Carol Rockne and her husband, Sigurd, one of the founders of the Breckenridge Ski Resort.
Rockne and the accuser sat on opposite sides of the courtroom before District Court Judge David Lass, each backed by family and friends on their respective sides of the aisle, a palpable tension in the air.
Word told the judge that the the plea agreement provides consequence for Rockne’s actions and that he had moved from Breckenridge and has “cleaned up his life.”
But Clune countered that the deal was far too lenient and amounted to “victim bashing.”
“It is scary to think that the DA was willing to plead down something they originally viewed as a violent beating and rape,” Clune said after the hearing. “We’re really scratching our heads on this one.”
After hearing from both sides, the judge called a 10-minute recess to collect his thoughts before delivering a decision.
“I can fairly say that this is one of the hardest decisions I have ever had to make,” said Lass, adding that the evidence compiled by both sides was significantly conflicted. “Although I am not pleased with the plea offer, it is not in my control to change it.”
Under the conditions of the agreement, Rockne will be placed on probation for two years and will be subjected to monthly evaluations by the court.
In addition, he is to partake in 36 weeks of domestic-abuse classes, 100 hours of public service each year for two years and is required to write a letter of apology to the accuser.
The judge will hear arguments at a hearing on July 21 on the amount of restitution Rockne must pay the woman.
Rockne, Pozner said, was able to gain a sense of closure after hearing that his plea deal was accepted.
“The search for the truth was not easy, and the judge has given stern conditions which we will live up to,” Pozner said.
Although Rockne told investigators that he kneed the woman in the stomach in self-defense during a spat, defense attorneys argued that there was not enough solid evidence to warrant an attempted-murder charge.
“The charges were initially very serious, but, after some digging, we see the story doesn’t hold up,” Pozner said. “If this case did go to trail, and a jury was introduced to all the facts, we believe it would end in a not-guilty verdict.”
Ashley Dickson can be reached at (970) 668-4629, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.