A Bayfield man who was described as a nuisance to neighbors in the Forest Lakes subdivision, including running at least one resident off the road with his vehicle, was sentenced Friday to three years in prison.
Richard Szopinski, 56, was facing up to six years in jail after pleading guilty to felony menacing in a plea agreement with the 6th Judicial District Attorney’s Office.
Three members of the Forest Lakes community spoke at the court hearing, as well as Szopinski himself, who disregarded the advice of his public defender and asked the judge to revoke his guilty plea and set his case for trial.
District Court Judge William Herringer denied Szopinski’s request.
“I think you need to be locked up and kept from society,” Herringer said.
As Herringer imposed his sentence, Szopinski tried to leave the lectern. Sheriff’s deputies stopped him and, after Herringer finished giving his rationale for the sentence, led Szopinski out of the courtroom.
In his remarks to Herringer, Szopinski did not dispute the underlying facts of his case – that he used his vehicle to chase an ATV driver off the road. But he said there are two sides to every story.
“I’ve been provoked for five years,” Szopinski said. “For the past five years, I’ve been fighting – whatever you want to call it – with these people.”
Prosecutor Sean Murray urged Herringer to give Szopinski an aggravated sentence that would land him six years in prison.
“There’s a 100 percent chance on him recidivating if he is given community supervision,” Murray said.
Public defender Christian Izaguirre argued that Szopinski needed mental health care, not a prison sentence. He said Szopinski has been evaluated by Axis Health System, which did not have a diagnosis for his symptoms.
This isn’t the first time Szopinski menaced his neighbors. Anna Marie Coriz told Herringer that she had been driving with her children earlier this year when someone in a tan GMC Blazer passed her and almost ran her off the road. She identified that person as Szopinski.
“At least he’s not able to hurt or threaten anyone else,” Coriz said after Szopinski was sentenced.