Defendant gets three years for fight near Dinkle Lake
A defendant’s tears turned to rage Monday after he was sentenced to three years in prison for his role in a drunken fight near Mount Sopris in July 2005.Billy Joe Knoeppchen, 29, was sentenced on felony menacing and misdemeanor assault charges as part of a plea agreement. The Carbondale resident was originally charged with two felony assault counts.Knoeppchen told Judge James Boyd that the incident at Dinkle Lake was “blown up into something’s it’s not.” But in handing down the sentence Boyd cited Knoeppchen’s lengthy criminal history – which includes three felonies, three misdemeanor assaults and three probation violations.Boyd agreed with the sentence recommendation of prosecutor Gail Nichols and the 9th Judicial District probation office. Upon hearing the prison term, Knoeppchen immediately stood up as sheriff’s deputies moved in, and swore loudly.He interrupted Boyd’s attempt to wish him luck with another profanity as deputies led him out of the courtroom. As they awaited the elevator in the hallway, Knoeppchen slammed his head into the elevator door.”Please don’t,” deputy Brady Jax said gently.”I just got three years of my —-ing life in prison for what?” Knoeppchen yelled.He was arrested last summer for breaking a youth’s jaw with a metal file and using it to poke another youth in the eye. Those involved had been drinking when Knoeppchen heckled a different boy who was at the time arguing with his girlfriend, Nichols said. The boy hit the defendant in the head with a beer bottle, and Knoeppchen then harassed two other girls. The victim whose jaw was broken told the defendant to stop.Knoeppchen then went to his car and retrieved the file. Nichols said the victim, whose jaw was wired shut for a month, still experiences pain; the other victim wasn’t seriously injured.Nichols said Knoeppchen clearly has anger-control problems. He broke a toilet seat in the Pitkin County Jail and has since been held at the higher security Park County Jail in Fairplay.Defense attorney Arnie Mordkin acknowledged his client “does occasionally find himself out of control.” But he said Knoeppchen acted in self-defense and is now on medication. Mordkin asked for a two-year sentence.In a rambling speech to Boyd, Knoeppchen apologized for previous courtroom outbursts and said he never intended to hurt anyone. But he said the person whose jaw he broke had intended to get a baseball bat. Knoeppchen said he felt endangered.”I was the sober one,” Knoeppchen said. If the circumstances happened again, “I would do it the exact same way.”He also said former deputy district attorney Andy Heyl treated him unfairly and that he also believed his girlfriend would have been in danger had he not acted.”This wasn’t a heinous act,” he said. “Two years is extreme enough.”He grew tearful in telling the judge that three years in prison is “too much.”Boyd said it appeared Knoeppchen regretted the injury but not the act of violence itself. The broken jaw is a very serious consequence, the judge said.He cited the defendant’s criminal history and noted that had he been convicted of the original charges his sentence would have been much longer.
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Grace Wesseling is an animal lover, a cheerleader of seven years and another soon-to-be graduate of Bridges High School, class of 2021.