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RANGELY I A jury determined Brian Fortunato acted in self defense when he struck Nathan Burroughs in the face with a beer bottle.
On Sept. 1, the 12-member jury found Fortunato not guilty of assault in the second degree, a class 4 felony, which, if convicted, would have resulted in a mandatory prison sentence of five to 16 years.
“That’s what we were obviously hoping would happen,” said Fortunato’s attorney Gordon Gallagher of Denver. “I think he was delighted. He had always said (Burroughs) had pulled a knife shortly before he hit him and he was defending himself … and that’s what the jury thought, too.”
Attempts to reach Fortunato for comment were unsuccessful.
The trial, held at the Rio Blanco County Courthouse in Meeker, was scheduled for five days, but was completed in two days.
The confrontation between Fortunato and Burroughs took place July 17, 2008, at Ace-Hi Steakhouse and Lounge in Rangely.
According to the arrest affidavit, “… Fortunato stated that the other guy pulled a ‘blade’ on him. … Fortunato stated that he hit (Burroughs) in the eye with a glass as hard as he could.”
When a Rangely police officer responded to the scene, he found Burroughs “holding a towel that was covered in blood to his head.”
Burroughs was transported by ambulance to Rangely District Hospital. According to the affidavit, the investigating officer said, “The doctor … told me that there was going to be permanent disfigurement to the face of Mr. Burroughs.”
Fortunato was later questioned at the Rangely Police Station, before being transported to Rio Blanco County Detention Center, where he was booked.
“The jurors in Meeker are good, common-sense folks,” Fortunato’s attorney Gallagher said after the trial. “They were willing to look at what happened. They were not going to be fooled. The hard thing when you make the choice to defend yourself, if you choose to do it, you could get seriously hurt or killed.”
The jury deliberated for about an hour and a half, Gallagher said. Burroughs testified during the trial, which started Aug. 31, but Fortunato did not. Presiding over the trial was Senior District Judge Thomas Ossola.