ALAMOSA — In a last-minute resolution presented in court shortly before jury selection was scheduled to begin in his trial on Monday, James Marshall pled guilty to committing a third-degree felony in the 2020 Main Street shooting of Danny Von Pruitt in Alamosa.
In Colorado, a third-degree felony carries a minimum of four years to a maximum of 12 years in prison with a mandatory five-year probation upon parole.
“Mr. Marshall accepts responsibility for what he did,” said Randy Canney, Marshall’s attorney. “He feels very badly that he hurt someone.”
In this case, despite no one having died in the crime, Marshall pled guilty to tampering with the body of a deceased person, a class three felony carrying the 4- to 12-year sentence.
“Mr. Marshall was charged with a third-degree felony. He pled guilty to a third-degree felony,” 12th Judicial District Attorney Alonzo Payne said of the resolution.
Marshall was charged with a slew of crimes, including two felony three charges, one felony four charge, two felony five charges, a second-degree misdemeanor charge and a third-degree misdemeanor.
Payne’s statement was not referencing the charges Marshall was facing so much as the amount of time Marshall could serve in prison.
Prison time was the top priority for the DA’s office in reaching a resolution.
“Even if Mr. Marshall had been convicted of all seven charges, there was only one victim, so sentencing would have been concurrent,” Payne said, meaning all the sentences would have been served at the same time as opposed to one sentence following another.
By Marshall agreeing to plead guilty to a third-degree felony, the “highest charge” of all charges that were filed, he was agreeing to the maximum range of sentencing possible.
DA Payne readily admits that concessions were made to reach the deal.
Three of the charges were filed along with “sentence enhancers”, a legal term that notes that the crime committed was one of violence and deserving of a longer potential maximum sentence. The crime of violence attached to the two felony three charges would have increased the maximum sentence to 16 years instead of 12.
DA Payne also agreed to an “Alford Plea” which included a “waiver of factual basis.” This is a frequent but not commonly known legal agreement that allows for the defendant to plead guilty to a crime he did not commit while also agreeing to accept the punishment handed down by the court without going through the entire process of a trial by a jury.
This case has been controversial from the beginning as the crime was committed in the early evening in early summer in full view of a large group of people. It was also captured on at least one, if not more, video cameras.
Marshall was, at least initially, convinced that Pruitt had — or was going to — hit Marshall’s wife with his Dodge Ram pickup truck when she was among a group of protesters at a busy intersection in downtown Alamosa. Marshall’s claim when he was put under arrest is that he shot Pruitt to stop him from injuring his wife and others. However, the videotape allegedly showed something different.
Likewise, Canney had indicated, months ago, that he planned on “the defense of others” in his defense of Marshall.
While Canney never veered from that defense in his conversations with the Valley Courier over the following months, the persistent effort to find a resolution suggests that at least the defense did not want the case to go to trial.
In a conversation just hours after the resolution, DA Payne voiced some hesitation, too, not about the case itself, but about the circumstances under which it was going to be held.
“We put in certain conditions because of COVID — separating the jury pools, social distancing, the requirement to wear masks. All of those factors are appealable,” he said. If Marshall had been found guilty, those circumstances in court could have paved the way for Marshall to appeal the verdict.
Also, while Marshall took responsibility for his actions and expressed regret for his actions, the Alford Plea suggests that he was unwilling to plead guilty to the crime. It is only speculation as to why.
“If he might be thinking about his future,” Payne said, “I think that most people look at a person’s history and see a felony three. That’s it. Not too many people ask, ‘how many felony threes did he have?”
The victim, Pruitt, was in court at the plea hearing and was not quite so accepting. According to people who were present in the courtroom, Pruitt strongly opposed the resolution and made a fierce and “lengthy statement” to the judge.
“Danny is very angry,” Payne said. “He wanted more. And he’ll be able to make that same statement at the sentencing hearing.”
Sentencing is up to Judge Gilbert Martinez.
When asked about his perspective of the case, Canney paused before answering.
“This was a very tough case. Nobody’s happy,” Canney said.
When asked the same question, Payne was more pragmatic.
“Marshall is going to spend time in prison. That was my stipulation — it’s even stated in the plea deal, and both parties have agreed. He’s going to spend time in prison. It’s up to the judge to decide how long. Aside from that, all I can say is that it’s over. It’s done. And it can’t be appealed,” Payne said.
The sentencing hearing is scheduled for Oct. 25.