D.A. explains decision in Silva-Larios case

Amy Hamilton

The Moffat County District Attorney’s Office weighed several legal scenarios before offering a plea bargain last week in the area’s first murder case in more than a decade.

Hugo Antonio Silva-Larios pleaded guilty Wednesday to reckless manslaughter in the October shooting death of James Calvin Pogline, 32.

According to the terms of the plea, the 17-year-old Mexican national will receive two to six years in prison, instead of the 16 to 24 years he faced if convicted of murder by a jury.

A judge will determine a specific sentence in the case during an Oct. 5 hearing.

After successfully seating a jury, prosecutors discovered new evidence the night before the trial began that they believed would derail their case against Silva-Larios.

Attorneys for Silva-Larios had said they were going to try the case on grounds of self-defense.

District attorneys originally planned to try the case relying heavily on a “Make My Day” law, St. James said.

The Colorado law states that an occupant of a home can use deadly force against an intruder. However, the occupant can only use deadly force if he or she believes the intruder intends to use physical force against them no matter how slight.

“If a guy comes in and takes silverware and leaves, the occupant can’t shoot. But if a guy comes in and takes silverware and holds a knife, then it’s O.K. to shoot,” St. James illustrated.

Prosecutors knew that Pogline was a short-term occupant of the unit at Timberglen Apartments at the time of the shooting. They had planned to present the case on the grounds that Silva-Larios was an intruder when he entered the house with a small group of people.

“If James (Pogline) was an occupant and Hugo (Silva-Larios) made an unlawful entry and committed another offense, then James was authorized by law to use force,” St. James said. “It put us in a position that if a judge agreed with Make My Day it would deprive (Silva-Larios) of self-defense.”

But the day before the trial would have started, defense attorneys presented prosecutors with evidence that the apartment complex had filed a formal trespass notice against Pogline, which could arguably prevent him from being an occupant.

St. James said district attorneys still were prepared to let the jury determine whether Pogline was a lawful occupant of the apartment.

However, Chief District Judge Michael O’Hara didn’t agree that the prosecutors could try the case using the “Make My Day law,” St. James said, which left the door open for Silva-Larios to be acquitted.

“At this point, neither of us had a clear picture of what the jury would do,” he said of both sides.

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