Judge denies resentencing for man who assaulted Breckenridge police officer
BRECKENRIDGE — Chief Judge Mark Thompson on Monday sent a message to would-be assailants that attacks against police officers won’t be taken lightly, choosing to reject a motion to reduce the sentence for Nathan Alexander Finnegan.
Finnegan, 23, appeared in district court Monday morning hoping to get a reduction on the 13-year Department of Corrections sentence he received following a trial in March, when he was convicted on a charge of second-degree assault on a peace officer along with other crimes.
In July 2018, Breckenridge Police Department officer Jennifer Kruse found Finnegan laying in the roadway of Colorado Highway 9 near the intersection with Highlands Drive. Finnegan was involved in a single-vehicle accident before he was found heavily inebriated on the road, and he later assaulted Kruse when she arrived to help him — an incident that left her with a large laceration on her face, severe bruising and a concussion.
Following a four-day trial in March, Finnegan was convicted of second-degree assault of a peace officer, along with lesser charges of criminal mischief, resisting arrest, leaving the scene of an accident, careless driving and driving under the influence.
In May, Thompson sentenced Finnegan to 13 years in prison and afforded him 290 days of time already served. At the hearing Monday, Finnegan and his attorney, J.B. Katz, motioned the court to reduce the sentence, noting achievements Finnegan already has made in his six months in prison, along with what Katz characterized as inconsistencies in the way the court sentenced similar cases.
Katz was the first to speak, and pointed to another serious assault on a police officer from 2017, when James Morrow broke a Dillon Police Department officer’s humerus and was sentenced to four years. Katz also said Finnegan’s sentence was inhibiting his rehabilitation, in that he’s been denied from numerous in-prison classes and programs designed primarily for individuals who are within five years of their release dates.
Finnegan’s mother, Lora Youngmark, spoke on her son’s behalf at the hearing, noting the considerable impact his absence has had on the entire family since his incarceration and urging the judge to reduce his sentence.
“We love Nathan,” Youngmark said. “Yes, drugs and alcohol played a huge part in this. That’s what most 21-year-olds are out doing these days, not knowing what the consequences could be. But there are a lot of programs out there that would help him more than sitting in prison and help him turn things around and make a huge impact.”
Finnegan also spoke for himself, saying he was “lost” in his early life and willing to fit in wherever he could, including in groups heavily involved in drugs and alcohol. Finnegan also said he’s been developing plans for his future through Defy Colorado — an entrepreneurship-based education program for inmates — including a podcast to reach out to other young people dealing with mental health and substance use issues similar to his.
“I’d like to reference a statement: ‘You need to go figure out if you’re going to be a follower or leader,’” Finnegan said, referencing a remark made by Thompson during the original sentencing. “I’m a leader, not for anyone else, but for myself. I have initiatives for the future. … In the time since this incident, I’ve become a different person. I hope you can see the changes I’ve made within myself.”
Deputy District Attorney Stephanie Cava presented the argument for the prosecution, claiming that the court got the sentence right the first time, citing the significance of Kruse’s injuries, Finnegan’s prior criminal history and more.
Lyn Herford, a sergeant with the Breckenridge Police Department who hired Kruse, said Finnegan shouldn’t receive any further leniency for his crimes because Kruse likely won’t ever fully recover from her injuries.
“Finnegan got sentenced to 13 years,” Herford said. “Kruse is sentenced to a lifetime of those memories. Let’s not forget that Kruse is the victim of this crime, and she has to live her entire life with the after effects of that night. … You said you were tired of the assaults on police officers in our community. The law enforcement community is also tired of those assaults.”
Ultimately Thompson wasn’t swayed by Finnegan’s arguments. He said Finnegan’s assault wasn’t comparable to Morrow’s — noting Finnegan’s attack was unprovoked. Thompson also commended Finnegan for his record so far in the Department of Corrections but said there was nothing that would compel him to change the sentence.
“The kind of unprovoked attack, whether the result of drugs or alcohol or both, is extremely egregious and extremely dangerous,” Thompson said. “You’re rehabilitatable; you’ve demonstrated that. But this sentence is a direct consequence of your conduct at the end of the day. And it is a harsh sentence in relative terms. But it was an extremely impactful crime on this community and on law enforcement. Therefore the court has determined it will deny the motion for reconsideration.”
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