District Judge Todd Plewe sentenced Shane French Tuesday to a three-year prison sentence and two years’ parole after a guilty verdict for felony menacing against a peace officer.
In a January trial, a jury found French guilty of menacing parole officer Ryan Jenkins but deadlocked on the charge of first-degree assault, which was dismissed.
The confrontation occurred when Jenkins arrived at French’s house in March 2019 to serve some paperwork.
When French, a qualified individual with a disability, advanced toward Jenkins holding a sock weighted with a rock, he was tased and fell to the floor after failing to comply with orders to stop, according to court records. French never attempted to strike Jenkins. He was tased again by Jenkins when he tried to retrieve the weighted sock.
During sentencing, Plewe acknowledged that French has a history of mental health illness, but said he also has a long criminal past, which includes violence and noncompliance toward peace officers.
“One of my jobs as judge is to protect the community. He is a danger to the community and, in particular, law enforcement officers,” Plewe said before handing down the Department of Corrections sentence.
French was on parole when the incident occurred as a result of an escape attempt conviction in 2017. Plewe ordered that the three-year sentence run consecutively to his previous parole sentence.
Assistant District Attorney Matt Margeson requested an aggravated range sentence of six years, but Plewe said it was not appropriate.
Plewe noted that French has served 449 days in custody at the Montezuma County jail since the incident with his parole officer at French’s Cortez home.
However, it will be up to the Department of Corrections to determine how much of the timed served, if any, will count toward his three-year prison sentence.
At the sentencing hearing in the 22nd Judicial District Court, public defender Kathryn Polonsky sought leniency, citing French’s long history of mental illness, which she said contributed to his reaction that day.
Defense sought a sentence of $1,000 fine, or a minimum sentence of one year. Polonsky also asked that French’s sentence be determined by the parole board for violating his parole.
In a bid for leniency, Polonsky said French has had a lifetime of “deeply rooted” trauma, mental illness, substance abuse and tumultuous experiences with law enforcement, especially the Cortez Police Department.
French was part of a high-profile tasing case at the same residence in 2014 involving the Cortez Police Department. He was repeatedly tased and charged with assault and resisting arrest in that case. He pleaded not guilty, and a jury cleared him of all charges.
When Jenkins arrived at his house in March 2019, French was “very on edge, did not know who it was initially, and acted coming from a place of fear and self preservation,” Polonsky said.
A 2017 psychological evaluation show French suffers from anxiety disorder, PTSD, and depression, she said.
“Compounding this trauma is the experience he has had with the Cortez Police Department,” Polonsky said. “He has developed a personality toward the perception of an expectation of maltreatment by others. When unclear about a situation, he tends to become paranoid. He has difficulty relating to authority because of his trauma history.” In 2016, the French family filed a lawsuit against the Cortez Police Department alleging police entered the residence illegally and repeatedly tased French while he was in handcuffs.
In July, the city of Cortez agreed to pay $200,000 to the French family to settle the lawsuit against Cortez officers over the arrest. The city did not admit to any wrongdoing as part of the settlement.
During the hearing, the courtroom adhered to coronavirus prevention protocols, including limiting groups to 10 people, mask wearing and social distancing.