A Durango man who pulled another man from his vehicle and assaulted him in the middle of a busy highway intersection has been sentenced to one year of supervised probation.
Samuel Morris, 28, offered no direct apology to his victim, but said he wants to move on with his life and take care of his wife and daughter.
“Your honor, I would just like to apologize for taking up everybody’s time; I apologize that this was even an occurrence,” he said during an Oct. 5 sentencing hearing. “I would like to let you know I’m all about trying to make sure I’m a productive citizen and I’m doing my part to help society and not hurt it.”
In an interview Tuesday with The Durango Herald, the victim said jail time would have been appropriate considering the random nature of the incident.
“It was a pretty bad situation,” said AJ Deschneau. “I’m fine now. Every time you drive by there, though, you see it; you’re kind of reminded of it.”
According to an arrest affidavit, the assault occurred about 1:30 p.m. June 2, 2020, near Elmore’s Corner, at the intersection of Colorado Highway 172 and U.S. Highway 160.
According to a witness who saw the incident in his rearview mirror, Morris got out of his vehicle at a stoplight after Deschneau honked his horn. Morris pulled Deschneau from his truck and assaulted him, the witness said.
Deschneau is an employee with La Plata County Road and Bridge and was driving a large dump truck west on Highway 160. Deschneau told deputies he approached the stoplight at Elmore’s Corner, and a black Honda Accord came to a stop in front of him, even though the light was green.
Deschneau said he honked his horn, and that is when Morris exited his vehicle and approached the dump truck, according to the affidavit. Morris opened the driver’s door and pulled Deschneau from the cab while making verbal threats, according to the affidavit.
In an interview with the Herald, Deschneau said he thought maybe the driver in front of him was having a medical emergency, and that’s why he was stopping at the green light.
“I don’t know why he stopped,” Deschneau said. “The next thing I know I’ve got this guy ... grab my pant leg and ripped me out of my truck and started punching me and kicking me. Yeah, it wasn’t a good day.”
A sheriff’s deputy observed Deschneau visibly shaken, with abrasions to his left arm and the top of his head, according to the affidavit. It was later learned he suffered a jaw fracture.
Deschneau said he has recovered physically, but he is disturbed by the random nature of the assault.
Morris left the scene, but Deschneau was able to take a picture of the Accord’s license plate. Deputies were able to identify Morris as the registered owner of the vehicle and determined that his physical description matched that given by the victim.
Deschneau said the case went to trial in early September. Morris testified he was acting in self-defense. The jury deliberated about three hours before reaching its guilty verdict on third-degree assault.
In addition to one year of supervised probation, Morris must abide by a protection order, participate in restorative justice if the victim consents, and obtain an anger and mental health evaluation.
In handing down her sentence, La Plata County Judge Anne Woods said probation has benefits that a jail sentence doesn’t, including that Morris must pay restitution to the victim.
“From Mr. Deschneau’s perspective, I mean this was a terrible situation,” Woods said. “But there are other things that this court believes are going to be in the better interest of him and the community and everyone else than just you setting in jail for a little bit.”