Suspect in case of cop shooter feared for her life, attorney says
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. Fear drove the actions of a woman accused of driving the getaway vehicle of cop shooter Steven Appl, her defense attorney says.Walt Brown said in an interview Wednesday that Cori Graham of DeBeque played only an incidental role in the Appl saga and she worried about what Appl might do if she didn’t cooperate with him.”She was afraid, very afraid of him, because he was armed,” Brown said.Brown spoke after Graham made a brief court appearance Wednesday afternoon in Glenwood Springs. There, Brown said she was waiving her right to be formally advised of the charges against her.Those charges include two felony counts of being an accessory to a crime, another felony charge of tampering with physical evidence, and a misdemeanor charge of obstructing a peace officer.Graham was arrested Oct. 25 when the vehicle she was driving was stopped at a police roadblock near Silt. Just after she got out of the vehicle, Appl shot and killed himself while hidden in the back seat.Police say that a day earlier, Appl shot and seriously injured Colorado State Patrol trooper Brian Koch during a routine traffic stop near Silt.One of the accessory charges is a class-four felony that would carry a possible sentence of two to six years in prison upon conviction, and the other is a class-five felony with a one- to three-year possible sentence. The tampering charge carries a normal sentencing range of one year to 18 months in prison, and the misdemeanor charge is punishable by up to a year in jail.Police say Graham picked up Appl at a home up Dry Hollow Road and was trying to take him to Silt. Graham reportedly told investigators that Nichole Brownell, who lives at the home, and Appl wanted her to drive him to Silt, where she would leave the vehicle with him and Brownell would pick her up.Brownell later also was arrested on charges including being an accessory to a crime. Police also have arrested the owner of the Dry Hollow Road home, Wayne Hangs.Magistrate Lain Leoniak agreed Wednesday to put off Graham’s arraignment until Jan. 5 because of the amount of information related to the Appl case that prosecutors and Brown first must review.”Only a little bit of it applies to her. … It wasn’t like she was hiding him out or knew where he was hiding or anything else,” Brown said of Graham.He said he hasn’t had the chance to talk to Graham at length. But he said she had cooperated with police when they went to search her residence in DeBeque while Appl was on the loose. She even later called an officer’s cell phone number to make sure the phone worked, he said.Brown said Graham was out looking for her grandfather in DeBeque when she came across Brownell in a bar. Graham reportedly has told police that Brownell asked her to drive her to Brownell’s residence near Silt, and it was only after they arrived that Graham learned Appl was hiding there. In a police affidavit, Graham said she “freaked out” over the discovery and just wanted to go home.That affidavit also said Graham told an investigator Appl hadn’t threatened her with harm, and she didn’t see any weapons. But Brown gave a different account Wednesday in describing why she agreed to drive Appl to Silt.”I guess she did that out of the fear that she had if she didn’t (help Appl). He was sitting there with a weapon,” he said.”She was taking him to the police, is the funny thing. He knew he was going to the police,” Brown said, referring to the roadblock.Brown noted that Graham got out of the vehicle when it was stopped at the roadblock.”I’m just assuming when she jumped out of the car she jumped out for her own safety because he was armed,” Brown said.Deputy district attorney Jim Leuthauser declined to comment Wednesday on details of the case.Brown said he understands why police saw fit to arrest Graham, but he questions how aggressively she should be prosecuted. The man accused of shooting Koch already is dead, and it appears that it was Brownell rather than Graham who knew Appl’s whereabouts but didn’t call police, he said.”I just don’t think in this case Cori has the liability that the others have,” he said.Contact Dennis Webb: firstname.lastname@example.orgPost Independent, Glenwood Springs Colorado CO
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