Courier staff writer
ALAMOSA — Brandon King will walk into state prison as a young man, yet by the time he walks out, he could be on the cusp of middle age.
Twelfth Judicial District Judge Pattie Swift on Tuesday sentenced the 25-year-old man to 13 consecutive years behind bars for a host of offenses, including felony menacing, second-degree burglary and vehicular eluding.
The judge acknowledged that King had a difficult childhood, but she said it’s up to him to make different choices in his life.
Of all the crimes he committed over a six-month period in 2011, she judged the vehicular eluding felony to be the most serious offense.
In that case, King led a Colorado State Patrol trooper on a high-speed chase, racing his vehicle along an Alamosa County road at more than 100 miles per hour.
Along the way, he repeatedly swerved toward the shoulder of the road to zoom past other vehicles. At one point, King veered his car toward the trooper, and forced the man off the road, causing him to lose control of his vehicle.
“You put so many people at risk of harm in that case,” Judge Swift said.
King was not carrying a gun or any other weapons in the moments before authorities finally apprehended him that day. Yet he kept reaching for his waistband, while ignoring orders to raise his hands.
“You are lucky to be here today,” the judge said. “They might have shot you.”
King pleaded guilty last July to each of the charges, as well as a fourth enhanced count of third-degree assault. In exchange, the district attorney’s office dropped numerous other charges against him.
Yet the defendant subsequently filed a motion to withdraw his guilty pleas, drawing the proceedings out to this week. He reversed course just as suddenly on Monday, when his attorney announced that he would be withdrawing his motion to withdraw.
The next day, he returned to court in order to be sentenced.
“I’m accountable for what I did, and I’m here to be held accountable,” he told the judge.
King also apologized to Trooper Ramiro Contreras for his actions during the high-speed chase. But his attorney, Deputy Public Defender Amanda Hopkins, disputed the allegations behind three other cases.
In one Rio Grande County case that dates back to June 14, 2011, prosecutors say that King tried to strangle the mother of his child, leaving marks on her neck. The woman’s pelvic area was also injured to the point that medical personnel initially believed she might have sustained a fracture.
Hopkins countered that the incident spiraled into a “not very comfortable” situation where both sides said a lot of things that, in hindsight, they might not have meant.
“However, it’s not the dramatic incident where a tiny little woman was tortured,” she said. “It was a fight. They got into a fight.”
According to Hopkins, the presiding judge in that case found that authorities had no probable cause to arrest King on any related charges.
“I believe his exact words were: ‘get this man out of my jail,’” she said.
That same judge followed through on those words, yet six months later, prosecutors say King committed another act of domestic violence against his girlfriend at the time.
“The victim in this matter was so scared that she jumped out of a vehicle that was going 45 miles per hour,” Deputy District Attorney Mark Loy said Tuesday.
Loy’s office initially charged King with kidnapping, but it later agreed to reduce the charge. King, in turn, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor third-degree assault with domestic violence.
Despite that plea, Hopkins said she did not want the defendant to be convicted of something he didn’t do.
Hopkins said the woman later recanted her initial story, and tried to tell the district attorney’s office that the initial police report on the incident is not accurate.
She said the woman entered King’s car of her own free will, and left it the same way.
The couple, she said, was essentially in the midst of a conversation about its involvement in an earlier burglary. According to Hopkins, the woman said she planned to duck any responsibility for her role in the incident.
But Judge Swift said she believes the initial report seems to be a good deal more credible than anything the woman may have said weeks after the fact.
“That was clearly a domestic violence situation, as well,” she said.
The fact that the woman jumped out of a fast-moving vehicle was a clear indication that something was wrong.
“That doesn’t suggest to me that everything was going fine between them,” the judge said.
As for the second-degree burglary case, prosecutors say King and three other people broke into a Ft. Garland home in November 2011 and stole items that belonged to a recently deceased individual.
Initially, authorities had no leads on the case. They only solved the crime by pure chance, when a state trooper pulled over to help a stranded vehicle.
Once the trooper realized that something was amiss, all four occupants of the vehicle were arrested, and authorities recovered the stolen items. (Hopkins claimed many of the items that authorities seized from the vehicle actually belonged to King.)
Although King pleaded guilty to a related charge, Loy noted that the defendant continues to say that he was not involved in the burglary.
Hopkins did not take issue with that statement.
“Brandon King is not some criminal mastermind that wreaked havoc all over,” she said.
Yet he’s being treated as such, she said.
Prosecutors offered the other defendants much better deals, she said, even though they had prior records for similar charges.
Hopkins ultimately asked the court to consider the fact that King had a difficult childhood, and to question how he wound up where he did.
“This was a long road, and those are things that should be taken into consideration,” she said. “He’s not a person who woke up one morning and decided to go on a crime spree.”
The judge agreed that King didn’t grow up in a stable environment, and said those experiences can be a factor in many cases.
Still, there was no excuse for his actions, she said.
“Based on the information in front of me, I think that the most important thing I can do is protect the public,” she said.
With those words, she sentenced King to a total of 13 consecutive years in state prison, and ordered him to pay more than $1,152 in restitution, plus various court costs and fees. In addition, she sentenced King to 433 days in the county jail, with credit for 433 days served.
Once he’s released from prison, he will be placed on parole, as mandated by state law.