Man sentenced to 13 years in prison for assault on Breckenridge officer
Nathan Alexander Finnegan, the man convicted of assaulting a Breckenridge police officer last summer, was sentenced to 13 years in prison during a hearing at the Summit County Justice Center Monday morning.
Finnegan, 22, fled the scene of a car crash while driving inebriated last July, and later assaulted Breckenridge officer Jennifer Kruse who found him laying half-naked in the street and attempted to help him. Finnegan was convicted on a charge of second-degree assault, along with other crimes, following a trial in March.
During his sentencing on Monday, Chief Judge Mark Thompson heard arguments from a number of people, including Finnegan and Kruse. District Attorney Bruce Brown kicked things off, arguing for a maximum sentence of 16 years and condemning Finnegan’s attack — and others like it — on police officers in the county.
“There’s a point where we have to look at this crime in light of our community,” said Brown. “In general, there is some position in this community that police officers are punching bags. … There’s a need to demonstrate to the community that these acts will not be tolerated.”
Brown continued to point to Finnegan’s criminal history — a handful of misdemeanor drug offenses and DUIs — along with analysis from Finnegan’s pre-sentence investigation and the injuries to Kruse as factors in his argument.
Kruse spoke next, offering a statement in which she reflected on the impact the assault has had on her and her family over the last year, including her families’ persistent fears that she’ll be harmed again in the line of duty.
She also spoke about her own personal fears, and her belief that she was almost killed on the night of the assault.
“I came very close to becoming another officer killed in the line of duty,” said Kruse, with a number of Breckenridge Police officers in the courtroom in a show of support. “I was left laying on the ground, brutally beaten and bleeding. … I feel fortunate to still be alive today and give this statement.”
Kevin Jensen, Finnegan’s attorney, pushed back against Brown and Kruse’s assertions that Kruse was almost killed in the confrontation, noting that the jury acquitted Finnegan of the first-degree assault charge. Jensen went on to say that Finnegan was highly motivated to overcome his substance abuse issues, and that he’s already begun working with a counselor to address the problem.
Gabriel Robinson-Lynch, a social worker with Mind Springs Health who’s been working with Finnegan, said that he’s made progress since his arrest.
“I’ve seen Mr. Finnegan make considerable progress towards his goals and with his substance abuse,” said Robinson-Lynch, who advocated for a shorter sentence on the grounds it would help in Finnegan’s rehabilitation.
“To impose a long prison sentence and expect he’ll magically be cured of his disease of addiction goes against our fundamental understanding of addiction itself.”
Finnegan’s mother, Lora Youngmark, also spoke on her son’s behalf, saying that Finnegan has shown substantial remorse since the assault, and a deep respect for law enforcement agents throughout his life. She said that while Finnegan has some undesirable personality traits, he’s not a bad person.
“Nathan is a follower, not a leader,” said Youngmark. “He’s not been evil or hurtful, and he’s always been kind and generous. His stupidity is what lead him here today. … He didn’t go out that night to hurt officer Kruse. He wasn’t in his right state of mind. Who lies in the middle of the road? Who goes down the road stripping their clothes off and bleeding? Who asks to be put in a police car?”
Finally, Finnegan himself spoke, turning from the podium in a minor breach of decorum to address Kruse directly. In a highly emotional statement, a visibly upset Finnegan offered an apology to Kruse and the community at large.
“I’m sorry to you, this community and everyone who lives here,” said Finnegan. “I’m sorry for what I’ve done to you, and all I ask is one day you’ll read my apology. You saved my life. I greatly appreciate you. You may think that everything out of my mouth is garbage. That’s not true. I’m very sorry, and I mean that with all my heart.”
Ultimately Judge Thompson felt there were more aggravating factors than mitigating factors in the case, and decided to send a message with a sentence he felt would dissuade further violence against law enforcement agents in the county.
“There has been a propensity for young men to come into this community, use drugs and use police officers as punching bags,” said Thompson.
“It’s beyond the pale for this court for people to continue taking substances, and going out and assaulting other people. Police officers are there to serve and protect, and circumstances like this are massively inappropriate and unacceptable.”
Thompson sentenced Finnegan to 13 years in prison, and afforded him 290 days of time served. Finnegan was also sentenced to 90 days in jail on the DUI charge to run consecutive with his prison sentence.
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