DA: Cases similar to Brainard’s often involve no jail time
A plea agreement resolving the domestic violence case of Grand Junction City Councilor Rick Brainard may look something like this: deferred judgment and sentence, treatment and no jail.
This, under a scenario laid out Wednesday in a Daily Sentinel interview with Mesa County District Attorney Pete Hautzinger.
Brainard’s case is scheduled for a plea and sentencing hearing at 4 p.m. Friday at the Mesa County Justice Center before County Court Judge Craig Henderson.
The judge could accept or reject any plea agreement in Brainard’s case.
While Hautzinger said he couldn’t discuss specific terms of a plea offer already extended to Brainard, he outlined his office’s “standard resolution” for misdemeanor domestic violence cases “with no aggravating factors” and “no criminal histories for the defendants.”
That’s a deferred judgment and sentence, which include mandates for successful completion of anger-management and domestic-violence classes, Hautzinger said. Other sanctions, such as hours of community service, also are on the table.
Under a deferred judgment and sentence, people enter into contracts with the District Attorney’s Office for terms such as a year, 18 months or longer. If successful in completing a deferred judgment, and if they avoid run-ins with the law, they can petition a judge to erase convictions from their records.
“As a matter of policy, we offer deferred (judgment and sentences) to people with no criminal history,” Hautzinger said. “If I can intervene when domestic violence is at a low level, get somebody an appropriate sanction with appropriate motivation to teach them to go forward and not do it anymore, that’s the right thing to do.”
The outcomes aren’t unheard of in Mesa County. Of the 2,807 misdemeanor domestic violence cases filed between January 2008 and last December in Mesa County, 361 of those cases resolved with a deferred sentence, according to figures from the Colorado District Attorneys’ Council.
Hautzinger also pointed to data from Mesa County Criminal Justice Services showing 107 defendants were monitored on domestic violence-related deferred sentences in 2012. Approximately 73 percent successfully completed those sentences. Recidivism data, showing how often those individuals committed subsequent crimes, wasn’t available Wednesday.
Sworn into office May 6 amid threats of a future recall election, Brainard, 51, may on Friday resolve the legal end of a controversy that started with his arrest on suspicion of misdemeanor third-degree assault and harassment at his Redlands home on April 6.
The Sentinel on April 9 reported the contents of a non-redacted arrest affidavit, which stated Brainard initially denied an altercation with his live-in girlfriend turned physical.
When confronted by an officer with details about the incident, Brainard admitted he’d grabbed her, pushed on her chest, pulled her hair and slapped her on the left side of her neck and cheek area, according to the affidavit. Brainard told the officer he slapped the woman because she needed to “shut her mouth,” the affidavit said.
Should Brainard be ordered into domestic-violence treatment classes, he will first be evaluated by a state-approved domestic-violence counselor for placement in one of three programs which vary in content according to numerous risk factors, including but not limited to an offender’s past use of alcohol and drugs and use or threatened use of weapons, according to Steve Landman, a local counselor and therapist who works with domestic violence offenders under the umbrella of the Colorado Domestic Violence Offender Management Board.
Landman also authored a letter to the editor published by the Sentinel, which called on Brainard to decline elected office following his arrest.
“Assuming he’s not a sociopath, he would attend these classes and change his thinking ... that’s the goal,” Landman said. “Sometimes an offender will use classes to become a better offender.”
Landman said he has approximately 30 men enrolled in his court-ordered domestic violence classes, and there’s no shortage of opinions about Brainard and his well-publicized case.
“I’ve asked them if they want Brainard to represent them,” Landman said. “The answer’s ‘no’ and they are prepared to vote in a recall election in 90 days.”
At least one local resident has appealed directly to Henderson, in writing, about the case.
“Please don’t give him any advantages or let him off easy because he’s rich or prominent or an executive or sits on City Council,” Paulette Fay asked the judge in the lone public correspondence in Brainard’s court file. “He needs to be treated just like the rest of us.”