Suspected trooper shooting accessory gets probation
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colordao ” More than two years after former Colorado State Patrol Trooper Brian Koch was shot, criminal cases for three suspects charged as accessories have reached an end.
But Koch may endure the memory forever. He has permanent injuries from the bullet that hit his arm and said during a trial in May, “inside my hand it’s always burning.”
Koch has left the CSP and took a job as a safety consultant with ConocoPhillips.
Efforts to reach him for comment Friday were unsuccessful.
On Friday, District Judge Denise Lynch sentenced Cori Graham, 29, of DeBeque, to four years of probation, a substance abuse evaluation, drug testing and 80 hours of community service. Graham had pleaded guilty to one count of being an accessory to the shooting in exchange for dismissal of three other charges and no jail or prison time other than two days already served.
Police said Graham helped Steven Appl try to escape the night after he shot Koch during a traffic stop near Silt on Oct. 24, 2006. Graham drove Appl in a truck to a police checkpoint where he killed himself with a self-inflicted gunshot. Graham and her attorney say she was just trying to give her friend Nichole Brownell, of Silt, a ride home and she only drove because Appl had a gun.
“She never told me he was there because she knew how much I didn’t like him and that I wouldn’t ever have gone,” Graham said in an interview.
Graham said she would have gone to trial but she couldn’t pass up the offer for no jail time because of her three kids.
“I am guilty of some things, but I am not guilty of trying to help him escape,” she said.
The plea agreement was struck in October after authorities found notes Brownell wrote during her trial. Brownell was convicted of helping Appl try to escape by arranging for Graham to give him a ride. She received a five year prison sentence in September. She also allegedly tried to abscond to Puerto Rico but was picked up at Denver International Airport.
Brownell’s trial notes said she didn’t tell Graham that Appl was at Wayne Hang’s home and the two had no plan to help Appl avoid police, according to Graham’s attorney, Walter Brown.
Deputy District Attorney Jonathan Pototsky said that’s not what the notes suggested.
“They were very convoluted and had no bearing in my opinion. The only reason I accepted the plea agreement is because she pleaded guilty to what she was charged with,” he said.
He added that Brownell admitted she was involved and did something wrong, and the sentence fulfilled objectives of the criminal justice system to punish and rehabilitate Brownell while deterring others from committing crimes.
Brown said prosecutors were insistent on going to trial and seeking jail time for Graham until finding the notes. Koch had previously urged prosecutors not to seek plea bargains with Brownell or Graham.
On the night of the shooting, Appl called Brownell and told her he’d shot a cop. A group of people then left from Wayne Hangs’ house, where Brownell was living, on Dry Hollow Road near Silt. They drove around Silt and Rifle and came back but were stopped by police asking about the shooting and Appl’s vehicle parked not far from Hangs’ house. No one told police they’d seen Appl and that he could be in the house. Police conducted a search but Appl avoided detection by burying himself in the dirt somewhere on the property. The next day, Brownell got rides to Silt, Rifle and DeBeque. She drank enough that she passed out and later returned to Hangs’ home with Graham, witnesses said at Brownell’s trial.
Appl was a 33-year-old methamphetamine dealer who was living in a cabin near Battlement Mesa. His former employer of 10 years said he was from California and was a good employee helping build and recondition fire trucks until he got into the meth crowd and started using the drug.
Hangs, a 46-year-old truck driver, was also accused as an accessory. He struck a plea deal with prosecutors that could lead to the case against him getting dismissed after an 18-month term of probation under a deferred judgment and sentence.
Koch said previously he felt good about Brownell’s guilty verdict and was “relieved.” He said her verdict was the beginning of closure.
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