Craig man sentenced for firearm possession

Rothermund accepts plea to reduce five criminal charges to two

A Craig man was sentenced in district court Monday to two one-year prison terms for possessing a firearm on school property and violating bail bond conditions.

Christopher Rothermund, 33, appeared before Chief District Court Judge Michael O'Hara to be sentenced on five criminal cases and one misdemeanor.

Rothermund, who filed a lawsuit against Craig police several years ago that was settled out of court, secured a plea agreement with the District Attorney's office that dropped all but two charges. In return, Rothermund agreed to plead guilty to possession of a firearm on school property and violating bail bond conditions.

When the proceedings began, however, Rothermund attempted to rescind his Sept. 16 guilty pleas. He also said he wished to "fire" his attorney -- public defender Sheryl Uhlmann.

Rothermund addressed the court and said he has been under a microscope since he won a lawsuit against Craig Police.

He spoke of numerous perceived injustices, comparing the charges against him to a "family feud" between the prosecution and the Rothermund family.

When he finished Uhlmann spoke on his behalf.

"I think he's right when he says his actions have been watched with a microscope," Uhlmann said. "What he's saying is not without a basis in fact."

She said the lawsuit against police "did create some bad blood between law enforcement and Mr. Rothermund," leading to what she called "overblown charges."

Rothermund spoke about being misled to plead guilty. He said two other inmates were in the room with him when he signed the pleas. The other inmates were "talking about, 'Just get it over with,'" Rothermund said.

"I just did it because I'm tired of being in court," Rothermund said. "I'm tired of seeing my kids in court. I'm tired of being in black and white in front of my kids."

He said he was under the impression his other cases would be "covered up" if he pleaded guilty.

He said he had asked his lawyer to turn over to him all the files related to his cases. Uhlmann failed to do so, he claimed. And he said he did not understand one of the documents he signed at his plea hearing in September.

"I don't find I'm being represented. I find I'm being ran down the river," Rothermund said.

"Much of what you're saying today has not made any sense to me," O'Hara said.

O'Hara denied Rothermund's motion to "fire" his attorney.

After asking what Rothermund meant when he spoke about getting his other cases "covered up," O'Hara said, "None of those cases are eligible to be sealed."

O'Hara reminded Rothermund that the court spent considerable time making sure Rothermund understood exactly what he was doing when he pleaded guilty.

"I've never spent half the time taking a plea from someone as I did with you," O'Hara said.

O'Hara addressed Rothermund's claim that he did not understand an "acknowledgement of rights" form he signed when he pleaded guilty. The court asks all defendants explicitly if they understand the documents they have signed or if they need more time to consult with their attorneys.

O'Hara followed those procedures with Rothermund in September.

"If what you're saying is that you signed it but did not read it ... then you lied to me when you said you did read it," O'Hara said.

The case was set for sentencing and it had been pending a long time, O'Hara said.

O'Hara proceeded to sentencing.

Uhlmann said her client was very afraid of another inmate who beat him up in jail. She said Rothermund felt that inmate was not properly prosecuted, and that her client was "scared to death."

So he began carrying a gun to protect himself. One day, he was pursued by plain clothes officers who chased him on foot. Rothermund feared for his life and fled onto school grounds, where he was apprehended and subsequently charged with possessing a weapon at a school, Uhlmann said.

She said her client had no significant criminal history. She asked for leniency.

Chief Deputy District Attorney David Waite said "it doesn't take a microscope" to look at Rothermund's cases and see criminal behavior.

Waite said there was no "basis in fact" for the defendant's claims, but rather a "basis in perception."

The prosecutor spoke of his ethical obligations to the defendant and the community.

"I find it very offensive," he said, that the defense suggested his prosecution of the case was motivated by extraneous factors.

Waite spoke of Rothermund's "increasingly bizarre behavior" that led to the charges.

"This (plea agreement) is a good deal based on the number of cases and the potential for conviction," Waite said. "Whether he believes his attorney got him one or not."

O'Hara sentenced Rothermund to one year in prison for the weapon charge to be served concurrently with a one-year sentence for violating bail bond conditions.

O'Hara said he intended to give the defendant credit for time served and deduct from Rothermund's sentence every day he spent at the Moffat County Jail.

Jeremy Browning can be reached at 824-7031 or jbrowning@craigdailypress.com

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