A jury on Thursday convicted a La Plata County man on four criminal charges related to a fight he had with law enforcement last year at the Glacier Club.
La Plata County Sheriff’s deputies led William Cline VI, 29, in handcuffs to the La Plata County Jail after a 12-person jury found him guilty of felony assault, misdemeanor assault, harassment and criminal mischief.
The most serious charge, second-degree assault, is punishable by fines of $2,000 to $500,000 and two to six years in prison.
Cline’s conviction comes after a two-day trial in which his attorneys, Katie Whitney and Brian Schowalter, argued Cline was acting in self-defense when he kicked and injured La Plata County Sheriff’s Deputy Shawn Draughon.
Schowalter declined to comment for this story.
Prosecutors said Cline acted with intent to hurt the deputy and continued his aggressive behavior as he broke a door handle in the deputy’s patrol vehicle and berated the deputy, who is black, with a slew of derogatory and racists remarks.
“It’s a victory of public safety and law enforcement,” Deputy District Attorney Zach Rogers said after the verdict.
The La Plata County Sheriff’s Office responded to the Glacier Club about 11:30 p.m. Feb. 13, 2019, for a report of a young man who entered a home without permission while possibly armed, according to court documents, testimony and legal arguments.
Law enforcement found a golf cart crashed into a snowbank outside the house in a gated community. A resident inside the home reported a man with a flashlight peeked into his room before going to the kitchen to make himself a drink, according to court documents. After being confronted, the intruder left the house.
Deputies followed footprints in the snow from the victim’s home to the Cline residence. Deputy Draughon testified he contacted Cline at his home with the intention to arrest him for burglary.
Upon arrival, Cline invited deputies into his home, which he shares with his parents. But their cordial interaction turned physical after Cline began acting aggressive and told a deputy to move to the entry of the home, body camera footage presented at trial shows.
Deputies detained Cline, who appeared to be intoxicated, and put him in handcuffs for the sake of officer safety, prosecutors argued. Law enforcement pushed Cline to the floor after he attempted to stand within arm’s-length of Draughon’s partner, deputy Darrin Christensen, recordings presented to the jury show.
Cline did not comply with deputies, who “tried to speak with him and tried everything they could to get him to calm down,” Rogers said in his closing argument.
But as deputies tried to carry Cline to a patrol vehicle, he went limp, according to testimony and video evidence. Deputy Christensen left the home to retrieve a patrol vehicle, and body camera recordings show Draughon alone with Cline in the dining room of the house with his knee on the suspect’s back.
Cline, who was facedown on the ground, squirmed from under the deputy’s weight, spun around onto his back and started kicking at the deputy, who responded with a series of grunts, video evidence shows. But the recording is difficult to decipher after Draughon loses control of Cline.
Prosecutors say Cline kicked the deputy and grabbed his genitals, causing pain with an intent to injure. Defense attorneys Whitney and Schowalter disputed their client grabbed the deputy’s genitals, an action an expert testified is considered lethal force.
Defense attorneys say Cline reacted in self-defense and the deputy’s punches and alleged choke hold constituted lethal force that was unreasonable to detain a suspect in the circumstance.
Whitney, in her closing argument, said there was no mention of the alleged genital grab in an affidavit recounting the arrest, and body camera footage shows limited verbal reaction from Draughon from the night.
“The reaction doesn’t match the act they’re alleging,” Whitney said.
The jury watched a video recording showing Cline, once he was in the patrol vehicle, reach with his hands bound behind his back toward the door handle, which law enforcement found broken. A La Plata County Sheriff’s Office fleet manager testified the damage cost about $400 to fix.
Cline was also shown on video in the backseat of the patrol vehicle harassing the deputy, a series of insults prosecutors say escalated in severity. Cline called the deputy a “white boy” and “Kunta Kinte,” referring to a fictional African slave, and asked “what are you, Arab, black, mulatto?”
Prosecutors said Cline made the comments in an attempt to get a reaction from Deputy Draughon en-route to the La Plata County Jail. Defense attorneys argued Draughon testified that “it’s not the worst he heard,” and the deputy must not have been affected by Cline’s comments by evidence the remarks were not mentioned in the arrest affidavit.
Attorneys on both sides acknowledged the barrage of derogatory and racist remarks Cline made to Draughon were vile and unacceptable. Each told the jurors to disregard what the remarks may say about Cline’s character and asked them to consider only whether Cline committed a crime.
“You might not like Mr. Cline, but you cannot let that get in the way of your judgment in this case,” Whitney said.
Cline is scheduled for a sentencing hearing Feb. 14.