A Cortez man on trial for menacing and weapons charges received an early birthday present last week after the court declared a mistrial.
Moments after day three of the trial started on Wednesday, Oct. 21, District Court Judge Todd Plewe ruled that Assistant District Attorney Sean Murray couldn’t prosecute the case against Daniel Holley. Court records reveal that Murray was disqualified because of a conflict of interest.
The following day, Holley celebrated his 29th birthday as a free man, for now. After declaring a mistrial, the court scheduled a status conference on Nov. 2.
In response to the mistrial, District Attorney Will Furse said “there was no ripe conflict of interest” regarding Murray. He added that a special prosecutor wouldn’t be requested in the case.
“The 22nd District Attorney’s Office will continue to prosecute Mr. Holley for crimes alleged in a number of pending cases,” Furse said in a written statement.
Pending since Aug. 3, 2014, the case against Holley has seen multiple twists and turns. Since his initial apprehension, records reveal that Holley has been arrested at least six different times for various bond violations.
The tables first turned against Holley, convicted in 2008 of vehicle theft, when he allegedly held a then 23-year-old Mancos man at gunpoint on the night in question. The alleged victim escaped any known injuries after he reportedly punched the gun-wielding assailant in self-defense, leaving Holley with a black eye and bloody nose.
The case experienced another twist after Holley pleaded guilty to menacing as an act of domestic violence on April 7. The plea deal included a deferred judgment and sentence. But two months later at a scheduled sentencing hearing, Plewe rejected the plea deal after Holley was arrested for violating bond conditions.
The case was further complicated in August, when Holley appeared for a bond hearing. At the time, Plewe doubled Holley’s bond to $20,000. After making an offensive comment, Holley was found in contempt of court and sentenced to three days in jail.
In the original complaint, police alleged that Holley held a .40-caliber semi-automatic pistol to the victim’s jaw after a dispute with his girlfriend on Navajo Street. Holley and the woman recently married. The couple’s SUV was parked outside of the courthouse last week; still with honeymoon slogans painted on the windows.
After a day-and-a-half of voir dire, a jury of 10 women and three men were sworn in on Tuesday. Opening statements followed, with Deputy District Attorney Traci Leibowitz telling jurors that multiple eyewitnesses would provide consistent accounts of what happened on the night in question.
“The victim fought back,” said Leibowitz. “His life was threatened. He was fighting for his life.”
Public defender John Moran countered in his opening remarks, informing jurors that prosecution witnesses were so drunk after playing beer pong for several hours on the night in question that their testimony couldn’t be trusted.
“The witnesses have taken prosecutors for a ride,” Moran said.
At trial, Holley faced menacing, assault and prohibited use of a weapon charges. He remains free on a $10,000 bond.