After the attorney for the man accused of taking three strangers hostage in July 2016 urged a judge Monday to either dismiss the case against Brolin McConnell or reduce his bond amount, one of the alleged victims said in court that McConnell’s possible release terrifies him.
McConnell, who has been in the Pitkin County Jail ever since his arrest on July 27, 2016, asked Judge Chris Seldin if the man’s comments could be used at trial, saying he was tired of what he deemed were lies from the alleged victims and urged the judge “not to listen to this bullshit.”
It was the latest unusual development in an already bizarre case.
McConnell is charged with 15 counts, including attempted first-degree murder, kidnapping, attempted kidnapping and menacing, for allegedly detaining at gunpoint three men on Lincoln Creek Road. He fired twice at one man’s head and feet, according to authorities. Why he allegedly held the men hostage is unclear, and drugs and alcohol as contributing factors have been ruled out.
McConnell, 32, a Colorado Springs-area resident, pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity in November 2017 and has been waiting ever since on a court-ordered evaluation by state authorities. Because nearly a year has passed without the assessment — the state mental-health hospital has a massive backlog of cases — his attorney, Harvey Steinberg of Denver, has filed a motion to have the case dismissed.
Steinberg, as he did in a recent motion, argued in court that his client’s due-process rights related to a speedy trial have been violated by the delay and the state hospital’s “outrageous” conduct. The wait is both unreasonable and a deterrent to his right to a fair trial, he said.
If the case is not dismissed — Judge Seldin has yet to rule on the motion, which the district attorney’s office is opposing — Steinberg said McConnell’s bond should be reduced to $50,000 from $500,000. That would allow him to get an out-of-custody mental evaluation and may speed up the state process because the Colorado Mental Health Institute apparently prioritizes out-of-custody cases, the defense attorney said.
Judge Seldin said he had received a letter from the mental health institute stating its intention to have McConnell evaluated in the next few weeks and that it hoped to have the results to the judge by Feb. 8.
That would mean the defendant will have waited over a year for just the initial evaluation, Steinberg said.
Prosecutor Don Nottingham said in court Monday he agreed the mental-health assessment aspect of the case has taken far too long, but added it was not the fault of his office. While the defendant has rights, the residents of Colorado, including the victims, have protective rights that are just as significant, he said, noting the seriousness of the allegations.
Nottingham said he also believes Judge Seldin no longer has the authority to release McConnell because he is now technically in the custody of the state hospital because of his not-guilty plea.
One alleged victim then approached Nottingham and, standing next to McConnell, addressed the judge.
If McConnell is released, “I would fear for my life every single day … because he told me that day he chose us because we were the youngest ones he had seen,” the man said.
McConnell, in one of the first instances he has spoken in open court, asked the judge whether “the alleged victim’s statements during this whole time are admissible at trial?”
The judge said no (but the defendant’s statements are) as McConnell said they were “straight lying.
“I can’t sit here and listen to the lies,” he said.
Judge Seldin he was not ready to decide on the dismissal motion from the bench and will likely do so in a written ruling.