A Towaoc man with a history of domestic violence has been convicted of assault and sentenced to more than 12 years in federal prison.
On Oct. 9, U.S. District Court Judge Robert E. Blackburn sentenced Bryan Ace Ponzo, 36, to serve 10 and years and nine months for assault with a dangerous weapon, according to the U.S. attorney’s office and Bureau of Indian Affairs. An additional 24 months was added to the sentence for witness tampering.
According to court records, Ponzo has an extensive state and tribal criminal history, including numerous assaults and domestic violence related offenses.
On Oct. 6, 2017, he was indicted by a federal grand jury for a 2016 assault, and pleaded guilty on the same day.
According to the stipulated facts contained in the plea agreement, Ponzo and his wife resided on the Ute Mountain Ute reservation, and are both tribal members. On Nov. 2, 2016, they had an argument after Ponzo looked through her Facebook page and questioned her about male friends.
According to court documents, Ponzo then sexually assaulted his wife, and she hit her head on the floor when he pulled her off the bed. He then threatened her with brass knuckles.
Law enforcement officers accompanied the wife to a hospital in Utah that afternoon, where her injuries were diagnosed and documented.
During the case, Ponzo had a No Contact Order prohibiting him from contacting the victim directly or indirectly.
While in pretrial custody at La Plata County Detention Facility, Ponzo dialed his wife’s number at least 1,749 times in an attempt to influence her trial testimony, according to a press release from the Department of Justice. In these recorded calls, Ponzo repeatedly blames his wife and instructed her to “fix it.”
The case was investigated by the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the FBI.
According to a 2016 National Institute of Justice study, Native American women suffer violence at a higher rate than non-Native women. Study results show that 84.3 percent of Native American and Alaska Native women have experienced violence in their lifetime, compared with 71 percent of Caucasian women.
In September, the Department of Justice awarded $113 million in grants to tribes to improve public safety in Indian Country.
The Ute Mountain Ute tribe has been awarded a $1.6 million. Of that amount, $898,918 is for public safety and community policing, and $748,013 was awarded to the tribe for justice systems and alcohol and substance abuse.
In addition, the Department of Justice is in the process of allocating up to $133 million in a first-ever set aside program to serve victims of crime in Native American and Alaska Native communities. The awards are intended to help tribes develop, expand and improve services to victims of crime by providing funding, programming and technical assistance. Recipients will be announced in the near future.
Victims of domestic violence can call a local hotline at 970-565-2100 for help.