A longtime Aspen man will return to prison after he pleaded guilty on Tuesday to attempted third-degree assault on a police officer.
Landin Smith was on parole when he resisted Aspen police officers while being arrested on Jan. 24 outside of Local’s Corner convenience store. On Tuesday, he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor as part of a plea deal.
He originally faced a felony charge of attempted assault of a police officer, and misdemeanor counts of resisting arrest and violating a court order to not drink alcohol.
Pitkin County District Court Judge Gail Nichols sentenced him to six months in county jail, with 62 days credit served. But because he violated his parole, he also will have to serve time in the Department of Corrections. He has yet to be sentenced for that violation.
Smith, 48, was released on Dec. 26 after serving most of the four-year term he received in 2009 for second-degree assault on an Aspen police officer.
Smith has a long history of run-ins with the police, including previous parole and bail-bond violations, domestic violence, trespassing, DUI and criminal mischief.
In 2009, Smith was charged with felony counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor and unlawful sexual contact, for allegedly hugging and providing alcohol to a 15-year-old girl. A judge dismissed those counts, however, ruling there had been no probable cause for his arrest. Then-Aspen prosecutor Arnold Mordkin took the allegations to a grand jury, which indicted Smith on lesser misdemeanor counts.
While he was out on bail for those charges, Smith drunkenly instigated a fight with Aspen police officers. He pleaded guilty to assaulting a police officer as part of a plea deal that dropped the sex charges, and received the four-year term.
On Jan. 24, Aspen police were called to Local’s Corner on a report of a disturbance. Officers learned that Smith, who was drunk, was forbidden from having alcohol as part of his protection order from the 2009 case. When he was told he was being arrested for violating the order, he became belligerent, according to a police report. As officers tried to cuff him, Smith began flailing around and intentionally kicked officer Forrest Barnett in the leg.
Smith suffered a fractured hand and received seven stitches around his eye as a result of the scuffle.
Aspen Deputy District Attorney Andrea Bryan said on Tuesday that Barnett didn’t feel pain from the attack and was more concerned about Smith’s threat to kill him.
Bryan, who recommended a year in county jail, said Smith’s penchant for attacking officers and drinking can’t be prevented unless he is incarcerated.
Nichols pointed out to Smith that this was his second offense involving an attack on a police officer.
“When you are intoxicated that’s what you want to do,” she said.
Nichols said she hopes the system can give him counseling for his addiction to alcohol. But she noted that those programs cost money and he might have to seek treatment on his own once he’s out of the prison system.
Smith was apologetic to the court and acknowledged he needs mental health counseling to deal with his alcohol abuse.
“This is just unfortunate,” he told Nichols. “That’s not my normal behavior in any way, shape, or form. ... I’ve been to prison twice now and obviously I will be back again.”
His public defender, Laura Koenig, said her client is remorseful about the incident, after watching the videotape of the assault and arrest.
“Quite frankly, he was embarrassed,” she said in court on Tuesday. She noted that after Smith was paroled he had sought help at the Aspen Counseling Center but had a relapse. Koenig said Smith suffers from post traumatic syndrome, anxiety and other mental health issues.
Smith told Nichols that he was affected by his time in prison and as a result, he had panic attacks while being held in Pitkin County Jail and episodes ensued.
Jail administrator Don Bird said after the court hearing that jailers gave Smith plenty of chances to correct his aggressive behavior and he didn’t. So, he was transferred to a jail in Park County near Fairplay, where he will serve out Nichols’ sentence.
At the end of Tuesday’s hearing, Nichols told Smith, who has been in her courtroom numerous times, that he has a chance to clean up his life, although it will be difficult.
“You are very nice when you are sober,” she said. “Mr. Smith, we’ve known each other for a long time. You have a lot of potential.”