Case dropped on murder codefendant
ALAMOSA — Although still facing prison time on unrelated charges, Brian Cooper, 25, Alamosa will no longer be prosecuted for his alleged part in the 2016 Floyd Dale McBride homicide.
Cooper had been charged with felony accessory to a crime after the fact, tampering with evidence and conspiracy to commit murder after deliberation in connection with McBride’s death last summer. Upon recommendation of the district attorney’s office and Cooper’s attorneys, District Judge Michael Gonzales dismissed those charges on Wednesday.
As the person who actually pulled the trigger, Brian Cooper’s father Lonnie has pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and crime of violence in connection with McBride’s death and is awaiting sentencing.
Authorities believe it was McBride’s stabbing of Brian Cooper that led to McBride’s subsequent death. Brian Cooper was treated for the stabbing at the hospital in Alamosa on the morning of June 23, 2016. Lonnie Cooper subsequently shot McBride that day, and he bled to death.
Assistant District Attorney Ashley McCuaig told Gonzales the DA’s office agreed to dismiss the case against Brian Cooper because of his minimal part in McBride’s death. He was not present at the time of the shooting, and most of his charges related to his part in moving McBride’s body from one burial place to another following the homicide.
McCuaig told the judge that McBride’s family wanted the maximum penalty imposed on anyone who had a part in his death — “I don’t blame them at all” — but they also understood that some people were more culpable than others. He said he had spent a significant amount of time in contact with the victim’s family.
Brian Cooper may still serve time in the Department of Corrections or Community Corrections but it will be in connection with two unrelated charges to which he pleaded guilty on Wednesday. He pleaded guilty in a drug case and a menacing case and could be sentenced to up to five years in prison, to be served concurrently, if Judge Gonzales follows the recommendations of the DA’s office and Cooper’s defense attorneys, Christopher Light and Rebecca Briggs.
Cooper pleaded guilty on Wednesday to felony possession with intent to distribute methamphetamines dating to a Sept. 29, 2015, drug bust at a residence where he, his father Lonnie and Lonnie Cooper’s wife Shannon were located.
“They found distribution level drugs and indication that distribution was taking place,” McCuaig told the judge.
Brian Cooper pleaded to an added 10th count in that case, with nine other charges dismissed. Under the normal sentencing range he could be sentenced to 2-4 years in prison on that charge or up to six years under aggravating circumstances. The defense and prosecution are recommending a sentence of up to five years.
In an unrelated case, Brian Cooper pleaded guilty to felony menacing in connection with a Sept. 9, 2016 incident in which Cooper and another defendant apprehended Ian Lucero at gunpoint, assaulted him, restrained him, hauled him around in the back of a truck for a while, threatened his life and finally delivered him to a bondsman.
Other charges in that case were dismissed.
Brian Cooper could be sentenced to 1-3 years in the normal range or up to six years in an aggravated range for the menacing charge. An aggravating factor in this case would be that Cooper was on bond when the incident occurred. Defense and prosecution are recommending a maximum of no more than five years in prison to be served at the same time as the sentence for the drug charge.
McCuaig said five years was in line with what others charged in this case received. He added that Brian Cooper had had a limited criminal history until his current stretch of cases. McCuaig added that Brian Cooper was being held accountable for his actions and would end up with two felony convictions as a result of this plea agreement.
Judge Gonzales advised Brian Cooper that he could be sentenced to consecutive terms in prison, but since he was pleading guilty based on a stipulated agreement that his sentences would be concurrent and no more than five years, if the judge decided to vary from that recommendation he would give Cooper the opportunity to withdraw his plea.
Judge Gonzales scheduled sentencing for Brian Cooper for November 20.
Brian Cooper remains in custody. Light asked the judge to reduce Cooper’s bond amounts in the two cases that remain, especially considering that the more serious case had been dismissed. Cooper is being held on a $10,00 bond in one case and $35,000 in another. Light asked that if the judge did not feel a public recognizance (PR) bond was appropriate he would request a bond of $2,500. He said Cooper has been incarcerated for 11 months and if he was released on bond could stay with his mother and work in the family business. Briggs agreed with Light’s recommendation. She said Cooper could be placed on GPS monitoring if released on bond.
McCuaig strongly opposed a PR bond and recommended GPS monitoring if Cooper was released on bond before his sentencing. He added that when Cooper had been released on bond earlier, with the same arguments made on his behalf, he had not done very well.
The judge said that was the biggest factor he was considering as well. He declined to reduce Cooper’s bond.