|Prosecutors rest case against backup punter; judge won't drop first-degree murder charge|
|Written by Admin|
|Tuesday, 07 August 2007 09:20|
GREELEY, Colo. (AP) - Prosecutors rested their case Tuesday against former Northern Colorado backup punter Mitch Cozad, accused of stabbing the starter with a knife.|
The defense immediately asked the judge to dismiss the attempted first-degree murder charge against Cozad, saying prosecutors did not prove their case. The judge refused.
Cozad, who told the judge Tuesday he did not plan to testify, is also charged with second-degree assault in the attack on Rafael Mendoza last Sept. 11. Police and prosecutors have said it was a bid to get the starter's job.
Mendoza was attacked outside his apartment in Evans, a small town adjacent to Greeley. He was left with a deep gash in his kicking leg but later returned to the team.
He testified he could not see who attacked him. Defense attorney Joseph Gavaldon has suggested it was another Northern Colorado student and not Cozad.
The first defense witness was Cozad's aunt, Sandee Kitchen. She described him as caring, gentle and helpful. ``He's like a teddy bear. He's not aggressive,'' she said.
Prosecutors spent more than four days laying out their case against Cozad, calling police, a former girlfriend of Cozad's and Mendoza as witnesses.
The ex-girlfriend, Angela Vogel, testified Monday that she lied to police at Cozad's request, first saying Cozad was with her at the time Mendoza was stabbed.
She said she quickly regretted that lie and 15 minutes later told investigators Cozad had left for part of the evening and did not contact her again until shortly after 10 p.m.
Police said Mendoza was stabbed at about 9:30 p.m.
``They were finding holes in my story, and I said 'I'm coming clean,''' she said.
During cross-examination by Gavaldon, Vogel said she got scared when police accused her of being with Cozad on a crosstown trip to Mendoza's apartment the night of the stabbing.
``They started treating you as a suspect,'' Gavaldon said.
``Yes, they did,'' she replied.
Vogel also testified that Cozad once asked her what she thought would hurt most, ``getting hit by a car, getting beat by a baseball bat or getting stabbed?''
She said Cozad had come to her dorm room on Sept. 4 dressed in black and crying, anxious and frustrated.
``He talked about if his numbers kept increasing he could go pro, (and) the coaches were taking that away from him,'' she said.
``He told me he got to be a ninja that night,'' Vogel added. ``'Oh my God, what I almost did tonight.' I thought he was suicidal.''
On Tuesday, Cozad's fiancee, Michelle Weydert, testified Cozad was with her that night, was not dressed in black and made no ninja references.
Weydert said she and Cozad have dated for three years and have been engaged for the past two. Vogel testified she was aware Cozad had another girlfriend but thought that relationship was ``on a break.''
Prosecutors showed a series of text messages they said Cozad sent Vogel, including, ``We were not apart between 8 and 12.''
In a Sept. 12 interview with police, Cozad said his text messages were meant to comfort Vogel, according to an audiotape of the session played in court.
``I was saying, 'It's OK. Just be strong,''' Cozad said.
Later in the interview, a detective accused Cozad of asking Vogel to lie and said, ``You know what happened to Rafael.''
Cozad's mother, Suzanne, who was present for the interview, interrupted and said, ``At this point, I think we need an attorney.''
``I'm done,'' Mitch Cozad said on the tape.
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