Retrial of Charles Sattler: Decision in assault case turned over to jury
After a slew of witnesses recounted the same story — the events that transpired the morning of April 14, 2014 at Frisco’s Snowshoe Motel — the ending is now in the hands of the jury.
The prosecution and defense on Wednesday presented closing statements for the trial of Charles Sattler, a 43-year-old Denver man charged with first-degree assault and manslaughter following Copper chef Blake Bostic’s death.
Both parties addressed the elements of each charge according to their account of the events that transpired in the middle of the night, where a fight broke out after Sattler, Bostic and two friends returned to Sattler’s motel room to smoke marijuana after having several drinks.
To determine Sattler guilty of first-degree assault, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Sattler acted knowingly, with extreme indifference to human life, engaged in conduct creating a grave risk of death to another person, resulting in serious bodily injury, or death. He also must not have been acting in self-defense or the defense of another.
The elements of manslaughter include acting recklessly, causing the death of another and not acting in defense of another or one’s self.
Deputy district attorney Alexandra Deitz argued that Sattler’s actions were reckless, based on the account of two anonymous eyewitnesses who said they saw Sattler striking Bostic repeatedly while he was unconscious on the ground outside of their motel room next door.
“His actions outside of the hotel room — the half of the story the defense has failed to acknowledge — those actions were reckless,” Deitz said. “What Mr. Sattler did that was reckless was striking Mr. Bostic repeatedly, when he wasn’t fighting back and couldn’t fight back.”
She added that the damage caused by striking an unconscious man to the head and neck were clear — and noted that Dr. Ben Galloway, a forensic pathologist, testified that the cause of death was blunt force trauma to the head and neck.
“Then Sattler went into his room, shut the door and waited. He didn’t call the police,” Deitz said. “He knowingly engaged in this conduct. He knew what he was doing and the result it would likely cause. He struck Mr. Bostic when he was down.”
Only when the neighbors who witnessed attack threatened to call the police did Sattler stop throwing punches, Deitz said.
“When you think of an organized boxing match, there’s a referee, someone to step in and say, ‘It’s over; he’s done,’” she added, noting that the neighbor was too late. “It was already over for Blake Bostic. He was done.”
Public defender Thea Reiff argued that the sole motivation for Sattler’s actions was to defend his friend, Charles Upchurch, whom Sattler said Bostic attacked after Upchurch made a sarcastic comment about some hot sauce Bostic had sold them.
“These poor men were getting along. This was not some situation where there was some long-standing argument or planned assault. There was some offhand comment about some hot sauce, and immediately it turns,” Reiff said. “It’s as much of a mystery to them as it probably is to you.”
She added that Sattler did not act in extreme indifference to human life but to protect his friend.
“He saw his friend, who was nearly a foot shorter than Mr. Bostic, and about 60 pounds lighter, being hit over the head, over and over and over,” Reiff said, pulling from Sattler’s testimony in police interviews. “He was knocked unconscious after two punches, and Bostic didn’t stop.”
After Frisco Police arrived, Reiff noted that both Sattler and Upchurch cooperated with police and voluntarily answered questions — conduct that would not indicate a guilty mind. She pointed out Upchurch’s injuries, too — a concussion, a fractured tooth and bruises — that might indicate he had been attacked.
Reiff criticized the prosecution’s use of statements Sattler made about his own abilities and his previous experience as an amateur boxer to justify his knowledge of the result of his actions. Reiff noted that Sattler hadn’t trained in 15 years and said of his past career, “It doesn’t take away Mr. Sattler’s right to defend his friend when be boxed in his 20s.”
“There’s a little bit of puffery going on in this room. … Mr. Sattler, at that time, thinks he successfully defended his friend,” Reiff added of Sattler’s police interviews and phone conversations in jail. “These little isolated sound bites can’t be the substance of a conviction. … They recorded every single jail call for 535 days, and there’s no evidence of what they’re trying to insinuate.”
In a final rebuttal argument for the prosecution, deputy district attorney Rusty Prindle noted that each snippet of conversation was crucial to the case.
“I like to think of this evidence as pieces of a puzzle, it’s all important,” he said.
He returned to statements Sattler had made about his boxing ability, including, “Usually if I hit you, something breaks,” and “Did you hear that woman’s voice? She said, ‘You’re gonna kill him,’” referring to the neighbors’ interference.
“He was bragging about that over and over and over, his own perception of the ability he has to do damage with his fists,” Prindle said.
He added that while Sattler was entitled to self-defense, there had to be a reason. He noted several of Sattler’s statements emphasized that he simply wanted Bostic out of the room.
“Once they crossed that threshold, out to that sidewalk, whatever happened inside that room didn’t matter anymore,” Prindle added.
He noted that Sattler admitted to “smashing the big dude to the ground,” and that the only injury Sattler sustained was a bruised right knuckle.
“He wanted him outside of the room, and that’s where it should have ended,” Prindle concluded. “But it didn’t.”
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