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an altercation in Gunnison last summer during a week-long visit by the Hells Angels motorcycle club.

Friday, 3 June 2011

local motel owner and former police officer was convicted on two of four counts last week, stemming from an altercation in Gunnison last summer during a week-long visit by the Hells Angels motorcycle club.
Ed Nowak was charged with four counts, including one felony, going into last week's jury trial. After about an hour and a half of deliberations, the jury found Nowak not guilty of the charge of resisting arrest, and a felony count of impersonating a peace officer was dismissed earlier in the trial.
However, Nowak was found guilty of disturbing the peace and obstructing a peace officer -- both misdemeanors.
Defense attorney Chris Grubbs of Denver said last week that he would have liked to see Nowak vindicated on all counts, but "when you're on this side of the aisle, you kind of have to call it a win."
Nowak was arrested this past July during the week-long visit to the Gunnison Valley by an estimated 500 Hells Angels members -- one of few arrests related to the motorcycle club's annual "USA Run."
During the week, 130 additional officers from throughout Colorado were brought to Gunnison to help keep the peace -- a cause for criticism by some locals, who believed that the police presence was too heavy-handed.
Numerous members of the Hells Angels were staying at the Western Motel in Gunnison, owned by Nowak. Police cited a tactic used by Hells Angels, where members intentionally pulled over in locations where they were able to have plenty of supporting bikers nearby.
On multiple occasions, officers said, such traffic stops ended up in the Western Motel parking lot.
The day prior to his arrest, according to authorities, Nowak had been warned about interfering with traffic stops.
According to court documents, the incident began when a motorcycle, operated by someone wearing Hells Angels insignia, failed to come to a complete stop at a stop sign, failed to signal a turn and failed to signal a second turn into the Western Motel parking lot, where he was contacted by a deputy from Larimer County.
During that contact, according to officers, Nowak approached the arresting officer in an agitated and angry state, using profanity and demanding that the officer vacate the premises.
After an argument with authorities, officers on the scene claimed that Nowak took a "shooter stance" and reached toward his belt. When instructed to turn around and put his hands above his head, Nowak turned and started to leave, according to authorities. At that point, Nowak was Tased in the back and arrested.
Nowak is retired from the Cook County (Illinois) Sheriff's Office after a law enforcement career that spanned 29 years.
Last December, local prosecutors added a felony charge of impersonating a peace officer to the other three counts, moving the case to District Court.
However, during proceedings last week Judge J. Steven Patrick dismissed the felony charge.
The defense in recent months submitted a video recording of the arrest for evidence, though it wasn't shown during the trial.
Grubbs noted that in the video, when Nowak is handcuffed and being lifted off the ground, he can be heard saying, "when I used to be a cop, this (expletive) would have never happened."
"Our position has been that he never tried to pass himself off as anything other than a former police officer," said Grubbs.
Nowak was sentenced last week shortly after the verdict was returned. Judge Patrick imposed one year of supervised probation, including that Nowak successfully complete an anger management program and 24 hours of public service.
Deputy District Attorney Keith Mandelski did not return a request for comment this week.
Grubbs chalked up Nowak's being found not-guilty of resisting arrest to an astute jury.
He said that it's typical to be either found guilty -- or not guilty -- on the combined charges of obstructing an officer and resisting arrest. "When cops beat the (expletive) out of somebody, they generally charge you with obstructing and resisting," he said. "So more often what you see is guilty on all of them, or not guilty on all of them. ...
"My argument was just that when you read the jury instruction for resisting arrest, it takes a physical act. It can't just be verbal."
Nowak said he was disappointed that the verdict upheld authorities' ability, in his eyes, to "enter private property at any given time without any explanation and do whatever they want to do."
He likened his situation to that of a posted no-trespassing sign.
"When you have a ranch and you post no hunting, it means no hunting," he said. "You find a hunter and he's at your mercy. How many types of standards do we have?"
However, Judge Patrick, in a court order filed in April, wrote: "There was no argument and there appears to be no dispute that (Larimer County) Deputy Clymer was properly on Defendant's property and made an appropriate police contact with the motorcyclist. ... It is undisputed that generally a warrantless arrest on private property requires both probable cause and exigent circumstances."
In his order, he found that both existed.
Nowak had previously indicated that he may pursue an appeal of any guilty verdict. Now, he said, that's only "buried in the back of (his) mind."
"As a former cop, I'm ashamed of those guys," he said. "It's one thing if it would have been our local guys. But it wasn't. All the stuff that was done and all the complaints were about the out-of-towners. ... The out-of-towners were doing what they can not do in their jurisdictions."


A person charged with a crime is presumed innocent until proven guilty

A person charged with a crime is presumed innocent until proven guilty

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