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Verdicts: 1 guilty, 2 not guilty for Cañon City councilman

By Scott Harrison
Published On: Dec 19 2013 10:46:27 PM CST
Updated On: Dec 20 2013 10:36:53 AM CST

Colby Katchmar found guilty of misdemeanor harassment but not guilty of third-degree assault and disorderly conduct against an elderly couple last May,

CAÑON CITY, Colo. -

A Fremont County jury deliberated for four hours Thursday in returning verdicts against Cañon City Councilman Michael "Colby" Katchmar, 54.

Around 6 p.m., jurors found acquitted Katchmar of third-degree felony assault against an at-risk adult, and disorderly conduct.  However, jurors found him guilty of harassment.

Katchmar testified in his own defense Thursday morning before closing arguments in the trial that began Monday.  He's accused of injuring Robert Martin, 70, and his wife, Margene, 65, during an altercation after a wine-tasting event on May 30.

On the stand, Katchmar recalled how he sat next to Mrs. Martin on the upper floor of Michael's on Main where the event was held.    He said he didn't know her before she asked him about dealing with a mosquito problem in the Lincoln Park neighborhood.

"That's where things got out of hand," Kotchmar said.

The conversation became a personal attack by Mrs. Martin, he said, after he told her the mosquito problem may have been a county matter instead of a city matter.

"She said I was a lousy politician who just wants to pass the buck," Katchmar said.  "And he called my wife's brew pub (Royal Gorge Brewing Company) a failing business."

Katchmar said he and Mrs. Martin ended their conversation, but the perceived insult continued to bother him.

"I was annoyed," he said.  "I was taken aback."

Katchmar said he had a bottle of beer before the event and four glasses of wine during it.  He confessed to being "buzzed" because of the alcohol.  At first he denied calling Mrs. Martin vulgar names but later admitted to doing so.

Katchmar said he walked downstairs holding a glass of wine and began asking friends and acquaintances about Mrs. Martin.  Among those people were Michael's manager, Kevin Holdridge, and co-defendant Thomas Lockhart.

"I was spouting off about the bizarre episode that had just occurred," Katchmar said.

Jurors watched video from a surveillance camera that showed Katchmar and the Martins involved in a verbal confrontation near the main entrance.  It was during that time that Katchmar said Mr. Martin hit him in the face.

Katchmar said he wanted to pursue Mr. Martin to ask why he had hit him, but friends told him to forget the situation and go home.

But Katchmar couldn't drop it.  He followed the couple outside to their car.

"I believed I was being taunted," he said.  "(Mr. Martin) called me his baby.  For a 70-year-old, he's a prime physical specimen.  He sucker-punched me."

When prosecutor Jennifer Zamarripa asked Katchmar why he pursued the man who had allegedly assaulted him, Katchmar replied,"I regret having done that."

Katchmar said he asked Lockhart to contact police because "I had been assaulted and Martin was causing a problem.  I told (Lockhart) that I didn't trust those people.  Then a lot of hollering took place.  Martin initiated it.  He thought I was a coward because I didn't fight him back after he hit me."

Katchmar said Mr. Martin became hurt and fell to the ground after trading punches with Lockhart, and that Martin swung first.  Katchmar said Mrs. Martin fell because she stumbled, not because Katchmar was standing over her.

Katchmar said he went to try and help Mr. Martin up but was hit in the groin and backed away.  Katchmar said he didn't try to hep Mrs. Martin.

"She had extreme aggression on her face," Katchmar said.  "Very upset."

Katchmar said the confrontation cooled after Holdridge separated the Martins from Katchmar and Lockhart. 

Katchmar said police responded to the scene and initially did not arrest him, but did take him into custody later at Pizza Madness, a nearby restaurant owned by his wife.

Jurors learned that a key piece of evidence was missing at trial -- an audio recording of a verbal statement about the incident given by Katchmar that night.  For reasons that are unclear, prosecutors couldn't find the recording.  Zamarripa said the statement would have refuted parts of Katchmar's testimony.

Zamarippa, a special prosecutor from Pueblo County trying the case because of Katchmar's status as a councilman, also said the May 30 incident wasn't the first time he was intoxicated and aggressive in public.  She mentioned an incident Feb. 23 during which police conducted a traffic stop on a friend of Katchmar who had nearly backed into an officer's patrol car.

Police Sgt. William Ray said during that situation, Katchmar identified himself as a councilman and said police had no right to pull the friend over.  Katchmar said he sat on Ray's front bumper in protest but Ray said that never happened.  Ray said Katchmar ignored police orders to remain in his vehicle, and called two fellow officers for assistance.

Ray said Katchmar later apologized for his behavior.

"A friend was going to give me a ride," said Katchmar.  "It was unfair.  The officer was in a bad spot.  The situation was not hostile."

Another officer, Jeffrey Buckner, said that during the May incident Katchmar never said he was assaulted, only accosted, and failed to mention some details of the incident.  Buckner also said Katchmar declined to provide a written statement "because it would take too long."

In closing arguments, defense attorney Roger Larsen said Katchmar's unwillingness to provide a written statement shouldn't be viewed by the jury as a sign of guilt.

"Alcohol and memory don't mix well," Larsen said.  "There was a mess of testimony in this trial.  Katchmar got defensive about his spouse.  There were mistaken assumptions.  Alcohol impaired (participants) in significant ways.  It made the situation much worse and (it) never should have happened."

Zamarripa delivered a different message to the jury.

"Don't let a grown man use alcohol as an excuse for his actions," she said.

Kotchmar will be sentenced March 12.  Lockhart, 60, has already pleaded guilty to felony and misdemeanor  third-degree assault and will be sentenced March 12.

The Martins were not in the courtroom during testimony and closing arguments.

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