Man shows photo of alleged groin injury to city judge
Despite vehement denials, an Aspen restaurant employee was convicted Monday of disorderly conduct for using threatening and abusive language against a carpet installer.
Vesselin Tzolov, 32, of Aspen, was charged with the misdemeanor for the Feb. 13 incident at Aspen Over Easy, which he manages.
The victim testified that on that morning he was working for Jill’s Carpets to put down a new stairway surface for the Aspen Brewing Co., which is above Aspen Over Easy.
Tzolov angrily confronted the man and two of his co-workers, cursing at them because the old carpet scraps were in the way of the restaurant’s operations, the man testified.
The victim said Tzolov kneed him in the groin during the confrontation. On Monday, in what may have been a judicial first for an Aspen courtroom, the man said he documented his injury with his iPhone, and showed the photo to Judge Brooke Peterson of Aspen municipal court and to the defendant.
The man said the photo showed redness in the area.
Tzolov said he thought the trial was a waste of time but had the man’s 911 tape played in court. The victim can be heard yelling “F--- you,” presumably at Tzolov, before telling the operator about the incident.
That shows the defendant lied under oath because he testified that he had not used expletives during the incident, Tzolov said.
He testified that on Feb. 13, he was doing a monthly sales tax report when someone told him about the carpet outside.
“I just told them, ‘Listen, guys, you can’t do this,’” Tzolov said. “I was being sarcastic, like, ‘What the hell are you doing? You can’t use the front patio as a dumpster.’”
He said the victim told him that he didn’t work for Tzolov and began screaming obscenities while Tzolov “was only trying to reason” with the man.
Tzolov said the encounter got physical when he tried to go up the stairs past the man to talk with the brewery owner about the carpet work. He said the man elbowed him in the chest, knocking him off balance and causing him to raise his knee, which struck the victim in the upper thigh.
“I had no intention of going after the guy, I was just trying to maintain balance,” Tzolov said. “I told him, ‘You attacked me.’
“The only thing I’m guilty of is having an excitable nature.”
Debbie Quinn, the city’s municipal prosecutor, asked Tzolov if he is a “fairly excitable person.”
“I’m argumentative,” he said.
In her closing argument, Quinn said it was “obvious from his outbursts in the courtroom” that Tzolov is “extremely excitable and extremely argumentative.”
She argued that the victim could not have elbowed Tzolov in the chest based on the men’s heights and where they were on the stairs.
After two hours, Peterson told Tzolov that whether he kneed the man in the groin wasn’t the issue. It was the other provision of the city’s disorderly conduct law that prohibits threatening and abusive language that he violated, the judge ruled.
“You could have been arrested for assault,” Peterson said. “You were charged with using threatening and abusive language, and it is my determination that is exactly what happened.”
He sentenced Tzolov to six months of probation, after which time, if avoids more run-ins with police, the probation will be suspended. Tzolov was also ordered to pay $150 in probation costs.
Peterson didn’t order Tzolov to pay restitution, saying the victim could address that aspect through a civil lawsuit.