Man who assaulted sheriff deputy sentenced to prison

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Russell Withrow

A man who assaulted a Moffat County Sheriff’s Office deputy while trying to escape arrest was sentenced Tuesday in Moffat County District Court to serve four years in prison.

After reaching a plea agreement with the 14th Judicial District Attorney’s Office, 28-year-old Russell Withrow was sentenced to prison on attempted second-degree assault on a peace officer, a Class 5 felony.

Withrow was originally charged with second-degree assault on a peace officer, a Class 4 felony, but that charge was lowered as part of the plea deal, deputy district attorney Jon Pfeifer said.

Withrow was represented by public defender Emily Wickham and appeared before Judge Sandra Gardner, who ran district court in Judge Shelley Hill’s absence Tuesday.

According to court records, in late October 2009, Withrow was stopped by Moffat County deputies as he was walking down U.S. Highway 40. At the time, he had three outstanding warrants for his arrest.

After providing officers false information to the deputies, Withrow tried to flee and Deputy Thomas “Skip” Duncan gave chase.

According to records, a 50-yard chase ensued and after hopping a barbed wire fence, Duncan tackled Withrow.

He resisted arrest by assaulting Duncan, hitting him in several locations and even placing him in a headlock. Duncan was able to control Withrow by threatening to use his Taser.

During sentencing, Duncan addressed Gardner.

“Fearing he would be taken into custody, he ran,” the deputy said. “I gave chase knowing that he had three active warrants. Verbal commands were shouted and Russell continued to get away. I hyper-extended my right knee during the chase, tearing the ACL, which was then replaced by surgery.”

Duncan recommended the court sentence Withrow to four years in prison.

Pfeifer agreed.

“Deputy Duncan missed work for quite a while,” Pfeifer said. “He had surgery and that’s unfortunate because he was following a court’s order to arrest the defendant.”

Gardner said Withrow’s actions were “beyond logic.”

“You may have just been in a little trouble, but you dug yourself into a hole,” she said. “In the process of doing that, you deprived the community of the services of a good law enforcement agent.”

Arson suspect sentenced

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Cody Custer

A Craig man was sentenced Tuesday in Moffat County District court to a three-year deferred sentence after pleading guilty to second-degree arson, a Class 4 felony.

Cody Custer, 18, reached a plea agreement with the with the 14th Judicial District Attorney’s Office on Nov. 9.

The plea deal stipulated Custer could not be sentenced to more than a three-year deferred sentence if he pleaded guilty to the charge.

Custer also pleaded guilty to criminal mischief, a misdemeanor.

According to court records, Custer started three dumpster fires in late October. Two of the dumpsters were set ablaze near the Centennial Mall in Craig and the third near Sunset Elementary School. He was originally charged with three counts of second-degree arson, all Class 4 felonies, criminal mischief, violation of a protection order and violation of bail bond conditions, all misdemeanors.

Custer, who was also represented by Wickham, appeared Tuesday before Gardner.

Custer’s plea deal took into account the current six-month jail sentence he received in mid-December for obstruction of a peace officer, a misdemeanor, and underage consumption of alcohol, deputy district attorney Marguerite Carr said.

Wickham asked Gardner not to impose additional jail time relating to the arson charge because Custer had no history of arson and prior felony convictions, adding his alleged counts of arson were alcohol-related.

“I’ll just also point out that the fires were started in dumpsters, (and) while certainly not acceptable, it is different than starting a fire in someone’s home or where there would be more of a threat posed to the public,” Wickham said.

Gardner agreed with Wickham’s request, but had stern words for Custer.

“You certainly engaged in some unfortunate criminal conduct in 2010, but this plea agreement here is giving you an opportunity to walk away from this experience without a felony conviction,” she said. “But, it is really in your hands whether you succeed or you fail. The court hopes you succeed.”

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