Man who testified against brother avoids prison
A man whose testimony helped send his own brother to prison for life was sentenced Monday to serve three years in Mesa County community corrections for his role in a fatal stabbing last year.
Jose Ortiz, 32, who was originally charged with first-degree murder, among other counts, in the death of 31-year-old Abel Roper of Fruita, likely sealed through his testimony the March 15 jury trial conviction of his brother, Julio, 30, District Judge Brian Flynn said before passing sentence.
The younger Ortiz was convicted of first-degree murder and is serving life without parole in the Colorado Department of Corrections.
Jose, who took the stand against his brother with generalized promises from the District Attorney’s Office of “consideration” for giving truthful testimony, was moved out of the general population of the Mesa County Jail because of threats against his life since he testified, attorneys said Monday.
Carisa Acker, Jose’s attorney, told Flynn her client would be under constant threat if the judge imposed a prison sentence. Under a plea agreement with the DA’s office, Jose faced a possible maximum four and a half years in prison, community corrections or probation. He pleaded guilty to felony counts of criminal trespass, tampering with physical evidence and misdemeanor third-degree assault.
Roper died after being stabbed 13 times during a melee involving the Ortiz brothers and their friend, Timothy Hanson, at a Clifton trailer park in the pre-dawn hours of March 1, 2012. The slaying was spillover from a fight earlier that night over a girl involving Roper and Jose at Cruisers, 715 Horizon Drive.
The fight escalated with an intoxicated Roper pursuing and colliding with a vehicle occupied by the brothers and Hanson on Interstate 70. Testimony from Julio’s trial suggested Julio was behind the wheel and tracked down Roper’s pickup at Pioneer Village park, 3195 F Road.
Jose and Hanson admitted assaulting Roper. Neither man indicated they actually saw Julio stab anyone. Hanson told the jury Julio had a knife and stabbed the driver’s side rear tire of the truck as he walked away from the scene. Science corroborated that story — DNA confirmed Roper’s blood was recovered from the inside of the flattened tire — a possible “squeegee” effect from a bloody knife.
Julio’s defense, however, mocked Jose’s testimony and told the jury it was “bought and paid for” with a generous plea offer.
“I don’t know how (Julio’s) trial would have come out without your testimony,” Flynn said.
Hanson was sentenced to 11 months in jail and probation for his acknowledged role in the incident.