No more jail time for former New Castle police chief arrested for pointing semi-automatic rifle at neighbor while intoxicated
Tony Pagni pleads guilty, 9th District Attorney Jefferson Cheney cites Pagni’s mental condition for causation
Ninth Judicial District Attorney Jefferson Cheney said Tony Pagni, the former New Castle police chief who pleaded guilty on Tuesday to pointing an AK-style rifle at his neighbor while intoxicated last summer, was suffering a crisis the night he committed the crime.
This is a main reason why Cheney advocated for Pagni, having served a total of two days in jail after his arrest, to not receive any more jail time. Instead, District Judge Anne Norrdin waived what could have been a 364-day jail sentence and placed Pagni on supervised probation.
Cheney specifically brought up July 3, 2001 — the day Steven Michael Stagner shot and killed four Mexican nationals outside of a Rifle supermarket.
“That incident obviously prompted the response of multiple law enforcement agencies across Garfield County,” he said. “One of the officers that responded was Tony Pagni.”
Cheney then expressed sympathy for Pagni’s mental state, saying “the burden became too heavy” for Pagni.
“In the sea of criticism that we hear on a daily basis from the media about law enforcement, I want to at least provide, maybe, a minority opinion,” Cheney said. “That is, when we sleep at night, the first responders are law enforcement officers. They have been called upon to respond, and for over 30 years Tony Pagni has responded, including that night that people were killed.”
Cheney went on to say that he himself has been to war and knows the negative effects of post traumatic stress disorder.
“These decades of law enforcement experience were caught up with (Pagni), his personal life,” Cheney said.
Pagni, now 59, was arrested on July 29, 2022. Arrest records show that Pagni was intoxicated when he decided to walk down the street in his neighborhood while brandishing the semi-automatic rifle.
It was during this time he confronted his neighbor, David Pudil, at Pudil’s front door. Pagni began randomly accusing Pudil of killing his wife, and in the process pressed the muzzle of the weapon into Pudil’s chest and threatened to “muzzle thump” him. Nobody was hurt in the incident.
Pagni, however, later barricaded himself in his own home until he was arrested peacefully. He was then charged with menacing involving a deadly weapon, a class 5 felony, and two misdemeanors: prohibited use of a weapon while intoxicated and harassment.
Pagni was then released on a personal recognizance bond less than three days later. The town of New Castle also fired Pagni, their police chief since 2014, soon after the incident.
Pudil joined in via an online communication system for Pagni’s Tuesday plea hearing. He said he’s been Pagni’s neighbor for the past 19 years and that “he’s been a great neighbor” and “I love him dearly.”
“I do want to say that I understand the circumstances that took place back on July 29 of 2022,” Pudil said. “I understand that Tony Pagni was under some duress, and I want to work with him as a neighbor and as a friend to get him through this.”
Norrdin agreed that Pagni has been appropriately held accountable for his actions. Pagni pleaded guilty to count two of a misdemeanor prohibited use of a weapon charge, while the felony count was dismissed. Norrdin then sentenced Pagni to 18 months of supervised probation, stipulating that Pagni continue to undergo substance abuse treatment. Pagni was not ordered to pay any restitution.
“The criminal justice system is often an imperfect place to achieve justice, but it does seem to me that justice is being achieved in this case for Mr. Pudil, who was, I’m sure, incredibly terrified by the experience that he went through due to Mr. Pagni’s actions,” Norrdin said. “But also that this process was a wake-up call for Mr. Pagni to start to get the help that he needs for the trauma that he has himself gone through as a first responder in the community for decades.”
Post Independent western Garfield County reporter and Assistant Editor Ray K. Erku can be reached at 612-423-5273 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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