BOULDER — A former Colorado lottery winner was acquitted Friday of attempted murder in last summer’s shooting of an acquaintance’s stepfather during a drinking party.
A jury of eight men and four women deliberated Thursday afternoon and most of Friday before deciding that Kevin Sutton, 26, of Longmont was guilty of third-degree assault, a misdemeanor.
Sutton became the youngest winner in the history of the Colorado Lottery when he won $3.1 million in 1997, when he was 19.
When Boulder County District Judge Daniel Hale read the verdicts Friday afternoon, Sutton put his head back and appeared to sigh in relief.
He originally was charged with three felonies: attempted second-degree murder, second-degree assault and felony menacing for shooting Cristobal Lopez, then 40, in the head on June 26, 2004.
The bullet entered Lopez’s temple, near his right eye, and exited behind his ear, but did not penetrate the skull. Lopez testified that he still has bullet fragments beneath the skin that cause him pain when he works with melted aluminum.
Lopez and his stepson, Joseph Rios, were attending a drinking party at Sutton’s house when Rios began arguing with another guest, according to witnesses. Sutton told Lopez and Rios to leave, but Holton contended they continued to walk menacingly toward Sutton instead.
Even after Sutton pulled a nine-shot revolver from his waistband and aimed it toward Rios, the men did not leave the house, witnesses said. Seeing Lopez approach even closer out of the corner of his eye, Sutton turned and fired at Lopez, witnesses said.
Earlier in the evening, Holton argued, Rios had been bragging about getting away with murder. He was acquitted of murder in 1999, after he claimed self-defense in the September 1998 stabbing death of Anthony Ruiz, 18.
Sutton faces up to two years in jail when he is sentenced March 29. Prosecutor Bruce Langer would not say if he will seek jail time, and he would not comment on the verdict.
Before entering the courtroom to hear the verdict, Sutton hugged and kissed his supporters who had attended each day of the trial, which started Monday.
A short time later, the group left the courtroom smiling about the results and planning a celebration for Friday evening.
“I’m going home to see my baby,” Sutton said, adding that the week was very stressful. “I feel a lot better now.
“I’m glad it’s over for now,” Sutton said, thanking his attorney for her work.
During closing arguments on Thursday, Holton insisted Sutton was acting out of an instinct to survive when he shot Lopez.
“Twelve people to judge you or six people to carry you,” Holton said as she described the dilemma Sutton faced. “He was being backed against a wall.”
To claim self-defense, a person must have reasonably believed the use of force was imminent and the person’s response must be reasonable.
During the trial, Langer tried to convince jurors that Sutton was responsible for the shooting because he had invited Rios and Lopez back into the house after they had left once. Also, Sutton had been drinking for at least eight hours before the shooting, and he kept his loaded gun near the front door of his home, Langer noted.
“It was the defendant’s decision and he should be forced to live with the consequences of that decision,” Langer said. “What he did was criminal and he needs to be forced to accept the consequences.”
Victoria Camron can be reached at 303-684-5226, or by e-mail at email@example.com.