District judge disappointed Rifle ranter won’t enter plea | PostIndependent.com

District judge disappointed Rifle ranter won’t enter plea

A Ninth District judge indicated disappointment that a Rifle woman accused of yelling at two Spanish-speaking women in a racially charged rant at a Rifle grocery story will not have to enter a plea.

Garfield County Judge Jonathan Potosky said at a hearing in the case Wednesday he would have liked to see Linda Dwire, who was charged with misdemeanor racial-motivated harassment enter a guilty plea of some kind of condition of having her case diverted.

The charge results from an incident at the Rifle City Market in October — part of which was caught on video by a bystander and went viral on the internet — where Dwire allegedly was yelling at two women for speaking in Spanish.

The diversion program was at the discretion of prosecutors, and it was not in his power to compel a plea, Pototsky said.

The point of the diversion program is to divert the case away from the court, and the court has no way to stop it. Pototsky said that, personally, he thought there should be a guilty plea, even if it was based on a deferred judgment.

"That's not my call to make," Pototsky said.

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"I think it's a bad situation all the way around," Pototsky said to Dwire in court, adding that the victims did not deserve the alleged harassment. "You had no business being in their space, basically," Pototsky said.

The diversion program will run until Dec. 4, 2019, at which point Dwire could petition to seal the case.

The Oct. 1 incident at City Market led to a viral video which has been watched millions of times. In the video, Kamira Trent is seen confronting Dwire.

According to the Rifle Police Department, Dwire allegedly approached two women, Isabel Nava Marin and Fabiola Velasquez, who were conversing in Spanish and asked them whether they lived in the country. Trent then stepped in to confront Dwire and can be heard in the video telling Dwire to "leave these women alone" and threatening to call the police.

Dwire told an officer after she was briefly handcuffed that she told two women to speak English and be "American," according to a police affidavit.

Prosecutors informed the court of Dwire's agreement to join a diversion program at a November hearing.

Trent, Marin and Velasquez, along with other family members of the alleged victims, visited the court Wednesday to observe the proceedings. Some expressed disappointment that Dwire would not have to plead guilty to any charges.

"I wish the judge were able to sentence her today," Trent said in a brief interview.

Trent said she has little expectation that Dwire's opinion will change in the course of the mediated justice program. At the very least, Dwire should learn "that she has to keep her mouth shut," Trent said. "Harassment is not acceptable."

Dwire will pay fines directly to the District Attorney's office, since it will be in charge of conducting the restorative justice program.

The program will consist of "restorative justice circle," expected to include the women allegedly harassed by Dwire and others involved in the incident. Dwire will also take an anger management class, must complete community service, and will not be allowed to consume or possess drugs or alcohol. She is also not allowed to possess firearms, weapons or ammunition.

In a previous interview, Dwire said she looked forward to making an effort in the diversion program.

"I'm going to go through this program with an open mind. I'm going to put everything I can into it to make it positive and make it better," Dwire said at the time.

"Even in the situation that I'm in now, I can learn something from it, and I will come out a better person for it. I will learn a lot of good things from it."

tphippen@postindependent.com