Deal struck in Clifton shooting

Man gets community corrections, will testify against murder suspect

A plea agreement has been reached in the case of a Clifton man accused of shooting four people last summer, killing one.

Michael Simpson, 24, is scheduled for a plea hearing Monday before District Judge Richard Gurley, and Chief Deputy District Attorney Dan Rubinstein on Wednesday told the judge Simpson has signed a plea agreement, but the prosecutor did not discuss terms of the deal.

Simpson had pleaded not guilty to a host of charges, including first-degree murder, in the July 28, 2009, shooting that killed 50-year-old Marco Ramon Acosta-Estrella and wounded three others. The four were shot inside a home at 468 Mae St. in Clifton, where families were celebrating a child’s birthday.

Simpson’s former friend, Joshua Cole, 25, was sentenced Wednesday to five years in Mesa County Community Corrections, following guilty pleas to charges of being an accessory to a crime and violating probation. Under his plea agreement, Cole agreed to testify against Simpson.

Rubinstein and the judge said this morning there’s no evidence suggesting Cole knew in advance that Simpson intended to assault anyone the night of July 28.

An arrest affidavit said Cole told investigators that Simpson had been arguing with Simpson’s girlfriend earlier in the evening, while Rubinstein said the pair ended up at Simpson’s apartment “sitting around talking about weed.”

Both men had been drinking, the prosecutor said.

Authorities believe both men armed themselves with handguns before setting out for a walk that night. The affidavit said Simpson opened fire after someone near the Mae Street home made a snide comment.

Rubinstein said evidence at the scene suggests all of the wounded parties were shot inside the home.

“It appears Cole is standing outside, and Simpson kicked in the door and opened fire,” Rubinstein told the judge.

At least seven shots were fired into the home, the prosecutor said.

Simpson and Cole were arrested when Cole was spotted by a Mesa County Sheriff’s Department deputy tossing a handgun into bushes near the home, while Rubinstein suggested Simpson had given the gun to Cole to carry.

During a search warrant executed at Cole’s home, officers recovered several items of Nazi memorabilia, which weren’t specified Wednesday.

“It was obvious he holds those items in high regard,” the prosecutor said.

Bill Richardson, Cole’s attorney, acknowledged his client had “some interest” in Nazism, but Cole wasn’t active with any local organization and isn’t politically active.

Among a host of charges lodged in Simpson’s case, prosecutors alleged he committed a bias-motivated crime, a sentence enhancer, stemming from racial statements allegedly made by Simpson as he was being booked into the Mesa County Jail on July 29.


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