Rather than facing all 14 felony counts initially charged against him after being arrested in August in connection to an overnight ordeal in a Willits neighborhood that led to a victim being transported to a Grand Junction hospital and requiring facial surgery, Mustafa Muhammad, 24, is instead considering a plea deal that would boil the charges to a single count of class 4 felony second-degree assault.
To be clear, Eagly County Deputy District Attorney Johnny Lombardi emphasized in court Thursday afternoon that the assault would be classified as a crime of violence, which typically serves as a sentence enhancer.
While no guilty plea has been entered and certainly no sentence determined, the prosecution is recommending Muhammad spend 10 years in the Colorado Department of Corrections — a deal that was attractive enough that he waived his right to a preliminary hearing in order to keep it “on the table,” as public defender Kevin Jensen put it.
Muhammad is one of two defendants in the August case that resulted in an Eagle County SWAT team arriving in a Willits neighborhood after a victim was able to escape a residential property to a neighbor’s, his face and knee bloodied, alleging that Muhammad and co-defendant Daniel Wettstein “were trying to kill [him],” according to both Basalt police documents and an interview the victim gave to the Aspen Daily News.
The alleged victim had been at a tavern in the Willits shopping center when, at about 10:30 p.m. that Wednesday, Daniel Wettstein, 35, invited him back to his home to have a few more beers, he said after being released from St. Mary’s Hospital in Grand Junction. He’d been care-flighted to the higher-care facility after initially being transported to Valley View Hospital in Glenwood Springs by Basalt police Aug. 27.
At first, the night didn’t seem abnormal. He and Wettstein went back to the condo complex and had a few beers and conversation. Wettstein’s housemate, Mustafa Muhammad arrived subsequently with another man in tow, the victim recalled. And, just as Muhammad would later relay to Basalt Police Sergeant Aaron Munch, per an affidavit, they had been boxing before things took a decidedly dark turn.
A disagreement ensued, and the victim alleges that Muhammad and Wettstein took turns beating him, at gunpoint, for about five hours through the night.
Myriad law enforcement agencies responded to emergency calls that Thursday at about 10:30 a.m., by which time the victim was in the care of a neighbor in a nearby garage. Wettstein was arrested just before noon, but it wasn’t until the Eagle County Special Operations Unit — essentially a SWAT team — arrived on scene that they successfully made contact with Muhammad more than two hours later.
Both men were booked into the Eagle County Jail. Wettstein, of Carbondale, retained Michael Fox, of Kalamaya Goscha, for his legal counsel. Muhammad, from California, is next due in Eagle County District Court Dec. 9.