Judge mulls Craig man's request to be released from jail

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A district court judge Monday heard testimony but did not rule on a former Craig resident's request that he be freed as his case is appealed.

Judge Michael O'Hara -- who indicated his decision would reflect Stephen Skufca's likely chances for a successful higher-court appeal -- said both District Attorney Bonnie Roesink and Public Defender Sheryl Uhlmann have up to another five weeks to submit written arguments in support of their positions.

Skufca, who attended Monday's hearing, is now serving a 12-year state prison sentence handed down last September by former Judge Richard Doucette. The judge had earlier ruled Skufca to be a habitual criminal under state statute. Skufca has been convicted on a variety of charges including felony complaints of possession of a controlled substance and introducing contraband, which led to the habitual criminal designation.

Skufca faced up to 24 years in state prison, and Doucette's deviation from that sentence prescribed by the state Legislature is the basis for a separate appeal by the District Attorney for re-sentencing.

Skufca, among other issues, is expected to argue that a jury, and not Doucette, should have determined habitual criminal status.

O'Hara said Monday a decision in writing would be issued following the submittal of written arguments.

Skufca has asked O'Hara to set bond in his case pending a review before the Colorado Court of Appeals.

"He's never fled a court's jurisdiction," Uhlmann told O'Hara.

Skufca should be allowed to live with his family in Highlands Ranch until the appeals are heard, argued Lisa Foster, Skufca's sister.

Foster, a business owner, said she would employ Skufca and would seek drug rehabilitation for her brother. Skufca's mother, Ruth, also testified on her son's behalf.

"He knows he doesn't want that kind of life, he wants to change things and help other people not do what he did," Foster testified.

"If given another chance, he would benefit our community."

But Roesink argued Skufca would be a flight risk -- particularly if the appeals court were to rule Doucette's sentence illegal. Skufca's numerous run-ins with law enforcement date back to 1980, she noted.

"He was living with his parents the whole time all of this was happening," Roesink said.

Meanwhile, O'Hara denied Skufca's separate request for a one-day furlough from the Moffat County Jail to visit the local graves of his brother and grandmother -- both of whom passed away while Skufca was incarcerated.

O'Hara cited flight risks and

"difficulty in arranging" the trip

with the state's department of corrections.

Brown pleads not guilty in GRAMNET case

A Craig man charged in a January raid by officers of the Grand, Routt and Moffat Narcotics Enforcement Team (GRAMNET) pleaded not guilty Monday in Moffat County District Court.

Christopher Brown, 49, also was scheduled for a two-day jury trial starting Aug. 11 before Judge Michael O'Hara.

O'Hara ordered Brown's attorney and Deputy District Attorney David Waite to file motions in the case within 14 days, while motions will be argued 2 p.m. May 20.

Brown is charged in a six-count complaint, including felony possession of manufacturing chemicals and supplies, and felony distribution of a controlled substance.

GRAMNET officers home raided Brown's Sandrock Drive Jan. 23.The officers allegedly found 35 suspected marijuana plants, 15 grams

of methamphetamine and numerous items in a garage used to

manufacture the drug, according to court documents.

Officers at the scene stated that the drug wasn't actively being manufactured at the time.

A conviction on either of the felony counts includes possible penalties of up to 32 years in state prison.

Probation likely for shooting suspect

A plea agreement accepted Monday by Judge Michael O'Hara means likely probation for a

Craig man charged with attempted murder.

Joseph McGill, 30, also agreed to a 90-day term in Moffat County Jail by pleading guilty to a new charge of felony menacing, a class-five felony.

In turn, the District Attorney's office moved to dismiss charges of attempted second-degree murder, and attempted first-degree assault, serious bodily injury with deadly weapon -- both charges that carried possible terms of up to 16 years in state prison.

McGill will be formally sentenced May 21 in Moffat County District Court. McGill was charged after a Craig police investigation into a Nov. 14 shooting incident near his Fourth Street mobile home.

He allegedly fired two shots from the front porch of his mobile home at a passing motorist, who called police from the east Kum and Go store that evening.

Police said two bullets were found in the rear gate area of the alleged victim's car, but a weapon was not recovered. A visitor to McGill's mobile home claimed to have witnessed the alleged incident, police have said.

Paul Shockley can be reached at 824-7031 or at pshockley@craigdailypress.com

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