TELLURIDE – Jeffrey Edmund Horvat was sentenced on third-degree misdemeanor assault charges Tuesday, Nov. 13, in San Miguel County court.
County Court Judge Scott T. Erickson sentenced Horvat to 75 days in jail, two years of supervised probation, $4,201.72 in restitution charges (still subject to change) and courts costs of $1,754.50.
The misdemeanor charges were reduced from second-degree felony charges, filed following an assault with a bicycle chain on Telluride resident Skip Lichter in the early hours of Sunday, August 5.
“I was beaten over my head, face and body,” said Lichter, who suffered serious injuries to his head and left hand, and injuries to his back, ribs and neck, at Tuesday’s sentencing hearing, “with a three-pound bike lock.
“It was assault with a deadly weapon,” said Lichter, who is being treated for a neurological head condition, with ongoing symptoms that include “headaches, loss of memory, nightmares, poor concentration, anxiety” and an inability “to walk outside at night without fear.
“I am truly not the same person I was three months ago,” prior to the attack, said Lichter. “I will have physical and maybe mental problems for the rest of my life.
“The punishment and the sentence should fit the crime,” Lichter told Judge Erickson, asking that Horvat be given “the most serious punishment possible.”
“It hits me in the pit of my stomach when I hear about the injuries he has,” Horvat said, who took the stand for questioning about the night in question from his attorney, Dick Unruh.
Unruh explained that Horvat had employed “the Alfred defense,” to reduce the felony charges against him, by agreeing beforehand to plead guilty to reduced charges “to avoid trial.”
Horvat told Unruh that he had parked his bicycle in front of Lichter’s bar late Saturday, Aug. 4, and returned from visiting a friend to find it damaged. Several hours later, on his regular route home to Brown Homestead, he encountered Lichter and a friend, and told them, “Thanks for breaking my bike – I can only ride it in the lowest gear.”
Soon after that encounter, Horvat said, “I was pushed very hard off my bike and landed on the ground.
“I thought that a bear had run into me,” he said. In the altercation that ensued, Horvat said, “I found my bike lock” and used it in the fight “because I feared for my life.”
According to a responding officer’s report, Horvat had a “strong odor of an unknown alcoholic beverage upon his breath;” his bloodied sweater and bicycle lock-and-chain were collected as evidence.
Judge Erickson pointed out that the felony charges initially filed against Horvat faced carried a minimum sentence of six years, while the reduced misdemeanor charges carried a sentence of anywhere from six months to 24 months in prison, and a fine of $500-$5,000.
But, he told Horvat, there was “a lot of support for you” in statements sent in by friends and family members.” He added Horvat had exhibited “a strong work ethic…a passion for working with youth, a good support system of family and friends” and was engaging in “pro-social activities.
“You do have a criminal history,” Erickson said, citing a guilty verdict against Horvat in 2009 in Durango on misdemeanor third-degree assault charges, “in a crime that included a weapon.” He added, however, that despite some “denial-type language…I do believe you are taking accountability for what happened,” and passed sentence of 75 days, to be served in a work-release program in Gunnison County.
Horvat is “not to consume any alcohol or controlled substances” during his parole; he will be given regular drug checks and an alcohol evaluation; he will see a therapist every other week and serve 96 hours of “useful public service.”