PUEBLO, Colo. (KRDO) -- The father and son duo who violently beat a homeless man last September have accepted a plea deal offered by the 10th Judicial District Attorney's office that drops their felony assault charges to misdemeanor assault charges. In return, Doug and Nate Cullison were sentenced to a deferred sentence of one year on supervised probation by District Judge Allison Ernst.
The Cullisons pleaded no contest, which the court deems nearly identical to a guilty plea, to the 3rd-degree assault charges. Their attorney, Joe Koncilja, said this was because of the ongoing civil lawsuits filed against one another by the victim in this case, Alex Montoya, and the Cullisons themselves.
The Cullison's actions came under the microscope after 13 Investigates released video of them violently retraining and beating Montoya in front of Nick's Dairy Creme last year. Joe Koncilja said in court Friday that their actions were the result of being in an "unfortunate situation," where their mother and wife, Maria Cullison, was spit on and hit by Montoya at a nearby elementary school.
"I understand in a perfect world, you know, people don't act violently. But quite frankly, if you spit on my 51-year-old mother and you knocked her down, you're going to get an a** kicking. I don't care what the law says," Koncilja said after a pre-trial hearing in June.
Koncilja raised these same arguments during the sentencing hearing Friday, claiming that Cullison's were less culpable for their actions because of what predicated the assault. In response, Judge Ernst pushed back on the idea that they were justified in their response to the alleged assault of their family member.
Ernst said if Colorado's laws were not followed then she, the district attorney, and the Cullisons defense attorney are all out of a job, adding that a transition to a "feudal society" wouldn't be good for any law-abiding citizen.
Both Koncilja and the prosecutor in this case, Kyle McCarthy, were critical of law enforcement's delayed response to multiple 911 calls from Maria Cullison and other teachers and administrators at the nearby elementary school. Additionally, McCarthy said Doug Cullison representing himself as a member of law enforcement when Pueblo Police did arrive on scene contributed to his belief that there needed to be accountability in this case.
McCarthy said this plea agreement was offered because of concerns that they would not prevail at a potential jury trial on the felony, 2nd-degree assault charges. Koncilja alluded to Montoya's actions before the beating being a tough obstacle for the prosecution at trial.
"In a perfect world, this thing wouldn't have been charged. People would have understood exactly what happened, the entire story," Koncilja said.
Doug Cullison, who was previously a volunteer SWAT medic with the Pueblo County Sheriff's office, has since been terminated by them due to his actions against Montoya.
McCarthy also mentioned that this plea agreement and probation sentence were both appropriate because neither Cullison has any previous criminal history to speak of, nor are they likely to violate the terms of their probation by getting arrested again or not following the terms and conditions of their probation.
Montoya's attorney, Shawn Conti, said he did not object to the plea agreement when the DA's office contacted him about it. This is because, according to him, they were going to proceed in this way regardless of Alex Montoya's potential objection.
"I think Mr. Montoya realized it would be futile. The D.A. was going to go ahead and proceed with the plea regardless of whether or not he objected. He's not going to tie his healing to what happens to the Cullison's," Conti said.
Conti said that although this charge could be removed from the Cullison's record if they complete their deferred sentence of probation, the Pueblo community will not forget their actions.
"The community is not going to forget that video. They're not going to forget that both the Cullison's made misrepresentations to law enforcement. That's going to be a blemish on their credibility forever," Conti said.
On the other side of the token, Koncilja said the Cullison's are looking forward to moving forward with their lives, holding on to his belief that if someone's mother was spat or hit in the way theirs was, that any person would react in the same way.
In a statement, Pueblo County District Attorney Jeff Chostner issued the following statement on why the plea offer was tendered to the Cullisons:
“It is not uncommon for plea offers to be extended in criminal cases. The majority of criminal cases are resolved through plea agreements. In determining whether a plea offer is to be extended and what that plea will be, the District Attorney’s Office takes many factors into consideration including: the facts and circumstances of the case, what actions may have led to the incident, the criminal history (if any) of the defendant, the information and evidence gathered and presented by law enforcement, statements, and observations of witnesses, as well as any information obtained by the District Attorney’s Office after charges have been filed and the likely outcome of the case should it proceed to trial. In weighing all those factors our Office determined that the plea offer was appropriate. In this case, there was public concern on both sides of the matter, but we are confined to the facts. In determining the appropriateness of this particular case, it should be noted that the Cullisons have no criminal record, and their actions and heightened emotions were based on the fact that the victim, in the companion case, was a relative. The defendant in the companion case does have a criminal record. All parties in this transaction of events have been charged, as all parties have some degree of criminal culpability.
The length of the deferred as well as the terms and conditions were left to the discretion of the court. After hearing arguments from our Office and defense counsel it was the court that determined that the appropriate length of the deferred sentence was to be one year as well as the specific conditions the court chose to impose." -- 10th Judicial District Attorney Jeff Chostner
Editor's Note: A previous version of this article stated Judge Ernst used the words "futile society" during the sentencing hearing. Instead, she used the words "feudal society" as indicated in the article.