Lee sentenced to 7 years in assault, burglary

Despite seeing her husband assaulted by a man who forced his way into her home, Sharon Salman said she now feels “very much at peace” over the matter.

Craig resident James Lee, 31, who was accused of assaulting Sharon and her husband, Howard, Aug. 30, 2009, at their home in the 400 block of West Sixth Street in Craig reached a plea agreement Wednesday with the 14th Judicial District Attorney’s Office.

Lee pleaded guilty to second-degree assault, a Class 4 felony and second-degree burglary, a Class 3 felony.

He was sentenced to seven years in prison and five years probation. Prosecutors dropped the five other counts he was charged with.

“We feel, that with a lot of prayer, he can be a good citizen … I feel that justice was served,” Sharon said. “Seven years in prison is a long time in anybody’s book.”

According to police reports, Lee went to the Salmans’ home around 2 a.m. and assaulted the couple.

Sharon told police that after waking up to get a drink, she heard Lee ringing the doorbell. When she opened a front window and asked Lee what he was doing, Lee cursed at her, saying she was in his house, then demanded to be let in.

She called the police, but not before Howard came to the window to see what was happening.

Lee is suspected of punching Howard in the face and tearing the screen from the window. He then tried to drag Howard out of the window, beating him in the face and body in the process, according to police reports.

“We felt that we needed closure and we feel that James Lee, with his demeanor at this time … can rehabilitate and be a productive citizen in this country,” Sharon said. “If we would have gotten the maximum sentence for him, it would have been like a life sentence.”

Lee was sentenced in what Sharon said was “a very emotional courtroom.”

“I spoke to Mr. Lee from the podium,” she said. “It was more of a note that we harbor no hate for him.

“We wish him well and our prayer is that he changes his life.”

Sharon said the decision to enter plea negotiations with Lee took “some soul searching.”

“Over the last few months, we have given this a lot of thought,” she said. “We are forgiving people — that’s the way we are — and that is what we believe in and we feel there will be another judgment for Mr. Lee and for us. That’s the bottom line. He will be judged again.”

She also said they did not want a long, dragged out trial at a “big expense” for Moffat County.

“It was a thing that we felt from the heart was the right thing to do,” Sharon said.

Despite having to serve the next seven years in prison and five years more in probation, Sharon says the real test for Lee will be if he can change.

“I really feel, in my heart, that he can be a better person than he has been,” she said. “He has made mistakes, but so have we all.”

She went on to say “nobody can change your life for you.”

“You have to do this yourself and all the counseling in the world will not change people,” she said. “They have to want to change.”

But, Sharon has room in her heart to forgive the man who traumatized her life on that early August morning.

“Forgiveness is a powerful thing, and if we don’t forgive, we will not be forgiven,” she said.

Lee is scheduled to appear May 11 in Moffat County Court to face two other assault charges.

A third-degree assault charge, a misdemeanor, stems from allegations he beat another inmate while serving in Moffat County Jail after the Salmans’ assault.

Lee’s third case is another misdemeanor charge of third-degree assault for a bar fight, which reportedly occurred a few weeks before he assaulted the Salmans.

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