Posted: February 26th, 2023

A Restorative Justice Adult Felony Case Study


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Assault on a Safeway Manager

  • A Restorative Justice Adult Felony Case Study
  • Tom Cavanagh

    Copyrighted materials enclosed. May not be reproduced.


    Assault on a Safeway Manager: A Restorative Justice Adult Felony Case Study

    Tom Cavanagh, MS

    Affiliate Professor School for Professional Studies

    Regis University Denver, Colorado

    Copyright © 1998. Tom Cavanagh-Restorative Justice, Inc.
    All rights reserved. This publication is protected by copyright law and may not be
    reproduced in whole or in part by Photostat. Microfilm, retrieval system, or any other
    means, without prior written permission of the publisher.

    Tom Cavanagh-Restorative Justice, Inc., Publisher
    PO Box 214
    Fort Collins, CO 80522


    About the Author

    Tom Cavanagh is a scholar, writer, and facilitator of restorative justice. He

    facilitated a private forum called, “A conversation about restorative justice in

    Colorado,” as part of the Institute on the Common Good at Regis University in Denver.

    He is currently a Ph.D. candidate in Educational Leadership at Colorado State

    University. His studies are focused on education and research related to restorative

    justice. He is an Affiliate Professor of Management for the School for Professional

    Studies at Regis University and an Adjunct Professor of Management at Front Range

    Community College in Fort Collins, Colorado. He worked as a court reporter for the

    District Court in Fort Collins.

    He is an honors graduate of Regis University in Denver, with a MS in

    management. His undergraduate work was completed at Carroll College, Helena,

    Montana, where he received a BA in English, and Lamar (Colorado) Community

    College, graduating with an AA in Liberal Arts.


    Restorative justice offers fresh ideas to our criminal justice system. This values-

    based approach to justice is based on healing the harm of crime, with a balanced focus

    on the offender, victim, and community. Because this philosophy is new, quantitative

    data are hard to find. Therefore, the qualitative method of case studies is appropriate

    for reporting and analyzing the outcomes of restorative justice.

    This case study looks at the use of restorative justice conferencing in an adult

    felony case. To date the primary focus of this process is on juvenile cases. This case

    study involves an adult case, believed to be the first such case in Colorado and one of

    the first in the United States. The highlight of this case study is a conference that took

    place between the entry of the plea of guilty and sentencing by the Court.


    Assault on a Safeway Manager: A Restorative Justice Adult Felony Case Study


    The principal people involved in this case study are Milton Brown, a young black

    man from Cheyenne, Wyoming. While in jail for this case, Milton learned was awarded

    a scholarship to play football at Missouri Valley University. Randy Davison was a clerk

    at a Safeway store in Fort Collins, Colorado. His real passion in life was sound mixing.

    Randy was married to Jeannine, and they had two young children, Danielle and


    The incident that brought these people together occurred June 7, 1998, at the

    Safeway store in Fort Collins where Randy worked. The allegations in the case indicate

    Milton and an acquaintance were shoplifting at the Safeway store. At the time they

    were drinking in celebration of their recent graduation from high school.

    As the two young men were leaving the store with a basket full of groceries,

    without paying for them, Randy followed the two young men and confronted them to

    ask if they forgot to pay. Milton became outraged and attacked Randy, knocking him

    down and stomping on his head. Randy was unconscious immediately after the

    incident and suffered injury to his face and head, which resulted in hospitalization and

    some loss of hearing. Randy didn’t remember the incident. Milton’s recollection of the

    events is different than those mentioned above.

    After Milton’s arrest the case proceeded through the criminal justice system in a

    manner common to most adult criminal cases in Fort Collins. On September 30, 1998,

    Milton entered a plea of guilty to the Court based upon a plea agreement reached


    between the prosecutor and Milton’s public defender. That agreement included a

    stipulation that Milton would be sentenced to a cap of four years at the Colorado

    Department of Corrections because of the viciousness of the attack, although he had no

    prior record of violence. Milton’s attorney at the time advised him to accept the plea

    agreement, which represented a minimum prison sentence for the charge.

    Later Milton asked the Court to withdraw his guilty plea. Special counsel was

    appointed to look into the matter. After a hearing, the Court allowed Milton to

    withdraw his guilty plea on January 14, 1999, and a trial was scheduled. If the matter

    went to trial, and Milton was found guilty, a prison sentence was certain to result, with

    no agreed-upon cap on the length of the sentence. Rather than going to trial, a

    disposition was held April 1, 1999, and sentencing was scheduled for May 26, 1999.

    The turning point in the case came when Randy met with Bill Jones, the

    prosecutor for the case. At the request of the prosecutor, his named is changed for this

    case study. The two people met to review Randy’s testimony in the case in preparation

    for the scheduled trial. During the meeting Randy expressed to Bill his desire to meet

    face to face with Milton because he couldn’t understand why this 19-year-old boy

    would hurt him as he did. Bill explained to Randy the fundamentals of a restorative

    justice conference and the wide range of possible outcomes from such a meeting.

    Randy wanted to meet Milton in person because he had no memory of seeing

    him at the time of the incident. Randy was motivated to meet with Milton because he

    didn’t believe prison was the best solution and his wife, Jeannine, believed prison takes

    a person to the wrong place and makes the “hardness harder.” Randy felt

    uncomfortable giving input about the sentencing without seeing and talking with

    Milton. He wanted to take away the fear resulting from the incident by learning more

    about Milton’s character, what he was like, and whether the incident was a stupid

    mistake or an act of meanness.

    Plea Bargain


    The week before trial Bill made a plea offer to Eric Vanatta, Milton’s attorney,

    which included a restorative justice conference. The pivotal point in the plea was

    Randy’s willingness to forgo asking for a prison sentence in exchange for the

    opportunity to meet and talk with Milton in a conference setting.

    Bill had knowledge about and experience with restorative justice prior to his

    meeting with Randy. Sensing Randy’s desire to meet with Milton, the week before the

    pre-trial meeting, Bill talked with local probation officer Bernadette Felix, who is a

    trained conference facilitator. Bernadette was open to the idea of facilitating a

    conference in the case.

    At first Eric was reluctant to accept Bill’s plea offer. He feared a meeting of an

    offender and victim might be antagonistic because of the anger involved, particularly in

    a case involving a severe assault such as this. In his experience Eric found victims and

    offenders often don’t empathize with each other. A victim and offender must be willing

    to meet face to face for this process to be successful. Milton was also reluctant to meet

    with Randy at first but later agreed to the conference.

    Wednesday, March 31, 1999, the week before trial, Eric and Bill met with the

    presiding judge for the case, Chief Judge John-David Sullivan. They explained the plea

    agreement, and Judge Sullivan approved the


    The restorative justice

    conference was the cornerstone of the agreement, according to Bill.

    The disposition was formally presented to the Court on Thursday, April 1, 1999.

    The Court, counsel, and the defendant were present. Mr. Vanatta announced to Judge

    Sullivan, “We’ve reached a disposition. He’s going to be pleading guilty to a class four

    felony dueling charge, also a class one misdemeanor third degree assault charge. The

    agreement is a stipulation to probation on each count, with terms and conditions left

    open to the Court.”

    “We’re anticipating the case will be continued for a sentencing hearing so that

    Mr. Brown and Mr. Davison, who’s the victim of the offense, would be in a mediated

    meeting with the probation department.” As a result of the plea, the Court vacated the

    trial date of April 5, 1999.


    The family group conference was held May 4, 1999, at the Fort Collins City Hall

    conference room. Prior to the conference, Bernadette met with Milton and his mother,

    Teresa Carter, on April 27, 1999, for a pre-conference. She explained the goal of the

    conference was to repair the harm resulting from the offense. Concerns and desired

    outcomes for the conference were discussed. The conference process was explained.

    A similar pre-conference was held with Randy in person on April 28, 1999. His

    primary concern surrounded safety of himself and his family. Bernadette talked with

    Jeannine on the telephone. Bernadette followed up the pre-conferences with a letter to

    the participants and a map with directions to the location of the conference.


    Present at the May 4th conference were the offender, Milton, and his great-aunt

    Bessie Westword. The victim, Randy, and his wife, Jeannine, were also present.

    Bernadette was the facilitator for the conference, and she was assisted by Laurie Klith,

    Community Liaison Officer for the Larimer County Probation Department. The

    conference lasted approximately one and one-half hours.

    Bernadette talked with the Davisons and Milton and Bessie separately before the

    conference to answer any last minute questions and address any concerns. The

    conference participants sat in a circle with Bernadette on one side of the circle, the

    Davisons next to her, then Laurie, and Milton and Bessie next to Laurie.

    At the beginning of the conference the participants appeared tense and fearful.

    Bessie was teary-eyed, and Jeannine’s hands trembled for the first 15 minutes. There

    was a common sense of caring. The Davisons wanted Milton to learn from the

    conference and make positive changes in his life. Bessie expressed to the Davisons her

    family wanted them to be okay and to forgive her


    The participants were able to talk about how the incident affected them, what

    happened to them since the incident, and how they would like to see the harm resulting

    from the offense repaired. Milton began by talking about his version of what happened

    on June 7th. He said he thought about the incident since that night. He knew he was


    intoxicated and that he hit and kicked Randy. However, he thought he assaulted him in

    the chest area and not the head. Despite what witness statements revealed in the police

    report, Milton explained what he remembered.

    Milton took responsibility for his behavior on June 7th, sincerely apologized right

    away to Randy and Jeannine, and asked for their forgiveness. He also expressed

    concern for Randy’s hearing loss and the effects on the Davison family.

    Milton said while he was in jail he drew upon his faith in God because he was

    informed 1) a friend died, 2) his mother was hospitalized, 3) he was offered a football

    scholarship but was not able to accept because he was incarcerated, and 4) he lost his


    Bessie, Milton’s great aunt attended and informed the victims of his past because

    she raised him and his siblings. She said, “To strike anyone is wrong. I teach him

    better. Nobody has the right to hit anyone.”

    Milton’s mother, Teresa, was unable to attend the conference because she was in

    California attending to her health needs. She wrote a letter, which moved Milton when

    it was read aloud, and explained she was sorry she couldn’t attend and meet the victim.

    She said, “To the victim, I am very, very sorry that my son, Milton, hurt you. I hope that

    one day you could find it in your heart to forgive him. I also know that deep down

    inside me, my son didn’t mean to hurt you at all. Milton also feels very sorry for

    hurting you. If he could change that day, he would.”

    Teresa’s letter went on to explain how her current medical problems were the

    result of being injured by a drunk driver. Interestingly, Milton was intoxicated at the

    time of the June 7th incident. Teresa ended her letter, “I hope the meeting between you

    and my son gives you both a chance to talk about what happened, so you both have an

    understanding of what happened.”

    The key to Randy’s willingness to participate in the conference was being able to

    see Milton face to face. Due principally to Randy’s introverted nature, he was pleased

    he could bring someone with him to the conference, namely, his wife, Jeannine, and that


    Bernadette used an outline which included questions asked of Randy. Randy felt the

    questions kept the dialogue on track, and Milton could hear the answers.

    Randy accepted Milton’s apology and forgave him. Randy explained how the

    incident affected him, particularly the hearing loss and his recently developed fear of

    people and reluctance to trust them. He said this change in attitude toward people

    bothered him. Recently Randy turned down an opportunity for a promotion in

    management because of his fears of being in charge when a similar incident happened

    again, and this decision affected his family. Milton encouraged Randy to take

    advantage of these opportunities. Randy said most of his hearing returned. He still

    gets headaches, especially when he first awakes.

    Until she attended the conference, Jeannine had not cried and did not grieve. She

    was busy from the time of the incident taking over all the duties of caring for her

    family, putting aside her own emotions. Jeannine was called early in the morning

    following the incident and was informed her husband was being taken to the hospital.

    She was unable to go immediately to be with her husband because she needed to take

    care of her two young sleeping children.

    At the conference Jeannine cried profusely, and her feelings were flooding, she

    explained. She appreciated the opportunity for resolution and closure. Jeannine

    accepted Milton’s apology, and regardless of what he said, Jeannine decided to forgive

    Milton, as a gift she could give.

    The harm to Jeannine resulted from Milton’s “choice” to hurt Randy, which

    resulted in Milton “almost killing my husband.” For a while Jeannine experienced fear,

    and Milton took something away from her. Yet Jeannine persisted in her desire to

    forgive Milton, based largely on her faith in God, saying, “I forgive you; God forgives

    you.” She saw forgiveness as a choice, and the details of the actual act of forgiveness

    would be worked out after the choice was made to forgive. Before the conference,

    Jeannine said she prayed and will continue to keep Milton in her prayers.

    Jeannine wanted to know more about Milton’s history, and she didn’t want to

    help release someone who would cause more harm in the community. On the other


    hand, she did not want Milton to be sent to prison if he had no prior record. Her

    emphasis was on restoring Milton rather then putting him in a cycle of involvement

    with the criminal justice system. Yet Jeannine emphasized conferencing does not

    provide complete resolution in itself. Consequences are needed to demonstrate to the

    offender the cause and effect process.

    Jeannine explained she grew up in Detroit and developed a hypersensitivity

    towards people. This hypersensitivity diminished when she moved to Fort Collins and

    returned when her husband was assaulted, particularly in terms of feeling safe.

    Randy and Jeannine met in a sound engineering class, and technical sound and

    lighting work was Randy’s dream. Jeannine explained if Randy lost his hearing, he

    wouldn’t be able to realize his dream. She and Randy thought the hearing loss

    jeopardized Randy’s dream.

    Jeannine noticed that since the assault Randy was more leery of people,

    particularly customers who were intoxicated. She thought Randy’s perception of

    people changed, and he was not more apprehensive and expectant that intoxicated

    people were going to do something harmful. Jeannine knew she didn’t want to hate

    Milton. Instead she chose to offer forgiveness to Milton and thereby let go of hate and

    fear. She felt to not forgive is to somehow let Milton continue to own her and her


    Jeannine talked about the effects of alcohol on a person’s life and quoted the bible

    as saying, “Everything in moderation.” She told Milton, “God doesn’t want you to be


    The highlight of the conference, mentioned by most participants, was when

    Jeannine showed Milton a picture of Randy, herself, and her two children, Danielle and

    Michael. Jeannine described herself as a survivor, and she wanted Milton to look at the

    picture and understand the gravity of what he did. She wanted to get to Milton’s heart,

    to get through his pain, the barriers, and help him see the devastation he caused to the

    Davison family. The desired result would be repentance, not merely Milton saying he

    was sorry.


    Jeannine said her heart’s desire was to reach Milton so he could realize the effects

    of his actions and decide to change his behavior. Both she and Randy expressed their

    concern that Milton not “throw his life away.” and they wanted him to succeed in life.

    Jeannine hoped 20 years from then Milton would have a family, a college degree, be

    working and doing his best, and realizing a life that blossomed.

    The results most important to Jeannine were: 1) She was happy to look into the

    eyes of Milton and speak about forgiveness, regardless of what he said, and 2) Milton

    realized that the Davison children were almost left fatherless by a young man who grew

    up without a father.

    The participants made a conference agreement, which was signed by Randy,

    Milton, and Bernadette, in an effort to “repair the harm that has taken place.” The

    agreement went on, “It is understood that these agreements may be used by the Court,

    but are designed for reparation, not retribution.”

    Milton and the Davisons made the following agreements:

    1. Milton Brown apologized to Randy and

    Jeannine Davison.

    2. Randy and Jeannine forgave Milton.

    3. Milton promised Randy and Jeannine that he not do anything like that again,

    and that he will better his life.

    4. Milton agreed to look for a Christian fellowship.

    5. Milton agreed to do community service or volunteer work with

    underprivileged children.

    The participants were embracing at the end of the conference and promising to

    pray for one another. The Davisons offered to write a letter on behalf of Milton in

    support of his re-application for the football scholarship.

    After the conference, Bernadette met with the participants separately to

    determine how they felt after the meeting was over. Milton said coming to the

    conference was hard for him but he felt good that he did it. Bernadette then prepared a

    report to Judge Sullivan outlining the pre-conference, conference, and written




    Milton’s sentencing took place Wednesday morning, May 26, 1999. Milton’s

    attorney, Eric, presented Judge Sullivan with letters of support and a document from

    Missouri Valley College confirming his football scholarship. The Court recognized the

    report from Bernadette and made it part of the probation file.

    Randy Davison.

    The prosecutor, Bill, called Randy to come before Judge Sullivan. Randy said, “I

    just wanted to come here and kind of express that I have had a meeting with Milton and

    his great aunt, and my wife and I had a meeting with him, and I just want you to know

    that, you know, everybody — first of all, that we forgive him, and we let him know this.

    We let him know what he did was wrong and how it affected us and what could have

    happened also, and — but at the same time, he needs to pay restitution for what he did,

    but I guess mainly what I want you to know is I have no, I guess, desire for him to go to

    jail or prison or anything like that. I just don’t see that as any kind of — I just don’t see it

    as any help.

    “I’ve looked at his record; that he didn’t have anything else happen before this.

    Then he also, you know, has a football scholarship, and my wish is that he would

    succeed in his life, and this would help him to get along and to maybe better himself

    and to achieve some things for his life, and that it would be a point where he can look

    back, and he could always remember it, and it would make him a better person, and I

    guess that’s all I wanted to say.”

    The Court pointed out Milton did have some other criminal offenses as a juvenile

    before he was 18, shoplifting and theft and asked if that made a difference. Randy said


    Eric Vanatta.

    In his argument, Eric said, “Your Honor, this case, I think, is unique one for

    several reasons. One, because Mr. Brown assaulted Mr. Davison. He’s never assaulted

    anybody before. Another is because Mr. Brown was, in essence, one of the only


    witnesses who actually cooperated and told the truth or his version of the truth when

    the police contacted him. I think third, and probably most importantly, was because

    Mr. Brown and Mr. Davison met in kind of a restorative justice type meeting with a

    probation mediator.

    “The Court may recall the facts in this case. There was a group Mr. Brown was

    with and some of his friends, and they had been drinking. They were over at Suite 152.

    They decided to go to Safeway to kind of meet to see if there was going to be any other

    parties that night or anything going on, and Mr. Brown was walking out of Safeway

    with Mr. Wright; kind of a questionable situation as to whether Mr. Brown was

    involved in the theft part — that is the allegation — or whether he was basically walking

    with Mr. Wright, and Mr. Brown indicated that he was grabbed by Mr. Davison. He

    didn’t know who it was. He turned around and punched him, and the question, I think,

    at the trial would have been whether he punched him, and he fell to the ground and hit

    his head on the ground and, therefore, caused the fractures or whether Mr. Brown

    actually had stomped on his head, as indicated by one of the witnesses.

    “I think the question of whether Mr. Brown hit his chest or kicked him in the

    chest, as Mr. Brown told the police, or whether he was hit in the head, I think it’s an

    irrelevant matter because the point here is that Mr. Davison was injured pretty severely,

    and obviously, Mr. Brown was then arrested and interviewed by the police, where he

    told his version of the events and eventually was charged and brought down to Larimer

    County, where he spent 199 days in jail before he was able to bond out.

    “And I think this meeting that he had with Mr. Davison, I was a little nervous

    about it, to be honest with the Court, before it happened, because Mr. Brown really isn’t

    a very forthcoming individual. He’s kind of quiet. He doesn’t volunteer a lot of

    information. I was worried that might be taken as some kind of lack of remorse or

    something like that.

    “Well, we want the Court to know that — or I want the Court to know that

    throughout my representation of Mr. Brown, when we’d meet and talk about this case

    and discuss the trial and talk about defenses and whatnot, he was always — he always


    asked how’s Mr. Davison, is his hearing coming back, and he was concerned about Mr.

    Davison’s situation, always been very sad and, I think, disappointed in himself, of this

    entire situation happened, and I think that comes through in the report submitted by

    probation. That he’s had a lot of time to think about this. That he takes responsibility

    for it. He apologizes. That he wants the Court and Mr. Davison to know that he’s very,

    very sorry about this whole situation. He wishes it never would have happened. He’s

    not sure exactly what why it happened, but he wants to take this negative situation and

    try to turn it into a positive in his life, and when he was originally placed into custody

    on this, I was in contact with Missouri Valley University. He had a football scholarship

    and ended up — and obviously, not going through. He was in jail.

    “Since being on bond in this case he’s been able to re-contact them and has this

    scholarship where he can take that positive step in his life and go to college. He’s got a

    scholarship for about $20,000, and he’s a tailback in high school, but he thinks he’s going

    to be playing defensive back for the university. He hopes very, very strongly that he

    can convince the Court today that a further time in jail on this case would not be

    necessary considering the entire situation. He fears that if he is placed in custody for

    any amount of time that he’s going to lose that scholarship again, and now that he’s got

    it for a second time, he doesn’t think his chances of getting it for a third time are very


    “He is a man that did have a shoplifting charge as a juvenile or I think a joyriding

    charge as a juvenile and shoplifting, petty offense, a long way back in 1996. That he was

    16, while living in California. No assaultive behavior, no serious crimes in his past and

    nothing since.

    “I think the letters of support from his high school coaches are significant. They

    tend to suggest Mr. Brown is a good person. That he’s respected by his peers. That he’s

    a kind a man that’s got something going for him in life and has always shown the

    proper respect to the proper people. Is not a punk. He’s not out there causing problems

    for people.


    “I know he’s got a very strong and good family. A lot of them are here to support

    him today, and they dealt with myself and Miss Zollars through our representation of

    Mr. Brown and were always very supportive of him. He lives with his mother. Well,

    he lives with — up in Cheyenne. His mother, right now, is in California. She was the

    victim of a drunk driving accident, and she’s got some health problems because of that,

    but I think, most of all, what this restorative justice meeting Mr. Brown and Mr.

    Davison had was not only to give them a chance to express their feelings about what

    happened, but I think it’s got to be extremely difficult for both parties involved to meet

    the other person face to face. I think if it works, it really helps both parties and

    especially the defendant, because Mr. Brown gets the chance to internalize that and see

    the person and place a face to the name and see the damage that these kind of things

    can cause, and so that in the future he’ll — if any kind of situation like this ever arises,

    he’ll know to let cooler heads prevail, and to sit in the same room and see the victim of

    the offense and to look at them in the eyes and apologize I think really means

    something if it’s — I think it hits you in a more — Well, I think the best way to say, it

    internalizes the situation.

    “We don’t have any problem with those medical expenses, and we would ask the

    Court to sentence Mr. Brown to a probation term for the period of four years. He is

    working at Pizza Hut, and he’s had that job for a couple months now. He’s a cook up

    there in Wyoming. He does have this scholarship that is extremely valuable, and I think

    it’s an extremely important tool for Mr. Brown to make that next step into college, and

    he’s very, very much looking forward to that. He, however, knows that this case is

    more important than that scholarship, and I thought that was an impressive statement.

    We were just taking outside in the hallway. That he’s got those things on his plate, but

    he knows he’s got to take care of his responsibilities first.

    “So again, pointing out that he was in jail for almost six months on this — almost

    200 days, we would urge the Court not to impose any further jail time. He is supposed

    to report to the college, he believes, June 10th for some summer training and whatnot

    that goes along with the football. He’s still kind of in the process of trying to get student


    loans. There’s a lot of paperwork he needs to do. He fears if he ends up in jail he’ll not

    be able to get the loan to make up for the rest of the money to go to college, and so those

    are our recommendations, and we hope the Court considers them.”

    Bill Jones.

    Bill made the following comments to the Court, “Your Honor, obviously the

    defendant was originally charged with first degree assault, a class three felony. The

    potential penalty for that case could involve up to 24 years in prison if the jury had

    found the defendant guilty and the Court saw fit to finding aggravating factors.

    “The defendant ended up pleading guilty to a class four felony. Still has a

    substantial jail sentence associated with it. The plea agreement contemplates only a

    sentence to probation.

    “Your Honor, the facts of this case are much like Mr. Vanatta had indicated.

    There was at least one witness that — the eyewitness that directly saw the defendant

    stomping on Mr. Davison’s head two to three times. There were statements the People

    proposed or were going to propose to the jury by the defendant’s own friends and

    family indicating things like why are you doing such a stupid thing and stop, and what

    are you doing and that sort of thing, as well as a conversations on the way back home to

    Wyoming asking Mr. Brown why he did such a terrible act.

    “Mr. Davison had to go to the hospital. He lost consciousness. His memory —

    Mr. Davison’s memory is these people had taken a shopping cart out without paying for

    it. He went out in the parking lot to find out what was going on, saw two people. The

    person closest to him was Mr. Brown. Went up towards Mr. Brown. Spoke to Mr.

    Brown. Did not touch Mr. Brown. Did not grab him by the elbow or anything else, and

    then had Mr. Brown turn around and look at his feet. He was not looking him in the

    eyes. Mr. Davison asked a series of questions: Can I help you? What’s going on, and

    the defendant suddenly, without any warning or any statement, hit him, and then he

    has no memory of what happened after that.


    “The defendant, when he was interviewed with the police, was relatively

    forthcoming. Did indicate that he kicked him in his chest area, not the head, but we

    have a witness that indicated that he did, in fact, stomp him in the head.

    “Your Honor, we had Mr. Davison — had him in my office. We must have talked

    for over an hour about what to do with this case, if there were going to be some

    concerns if we went to trial, the things that we could have if we chose not to go to trial,

    including the idea of doing this restorative justice idea, and Mr. Davison was extremely

    excited with the opportunity to do that, and to be honest with the Court, he, being Mr.

    Davison, wanted to do this meeting because he could see it going one of two ways:

    either he could see Mr. Brown as an individual that made a one time mistake and

    deserved to have an opportunity to rectify that mistake and make his life better as a

    result of it, or he could be the kind of individual that he wanted to see go to prison for

    24 years, and that was the reason that he wanted so badly to have this kind of a meeting

    with the defendant, and we were able to accomplish that.

    “I should note that we did indicate to Mr. Davison — but we talked about a lot of

    things that day — and told him that there were these minor offenses in his history, but

    that obviously, the focus of our conversation was on what had happened on this

    particular night or early morning, and so the People are looking forward to seeing what

    the results of this restorative justice meeting would be, because I could have gone either

    way, and the plea agreement that we have approved with the Court contemplates that

    there is an additional five month jail sentence the Court could order as a result of a

    sentence to probation, because the misdemeanor, class one third degree assault, carries

    with it a potential 60 day sentence, and the felony carries with it a potential 90 day

    sentence as a term and condition of probation. Those were going to be the — in the

    Court’s discretion, could be stacked or consecutive with each other, making the five


    “Your Honor, I know that Mr. Davison believes that Mr. Brown made a one time

    mistake and is willing and has, in fact, forgiven him for what Mr. Brown did to him.


    Mr. Davison did, in fact, lose his hearing for awhile and, as far as I know, still has

    headaches, and that — that he never had before, probably, as a result of this assault.

    “As was indicated, now repeating it, but Mr. Davison’s wife obviously was

    greatly concerned about this assault as well, and I know that the restorative justice

    phase of this sentence places Mr. Brown in a positive light and congratulate him for

    that, but the People can’t get over the hurdle that the defendant did still do a horrible

    crime, and his efforts since definitely make the People come forward with the kind of

    disposition we have reached; in other words, that he is going to be on probation and is

    going to have an opportunity to get his education and those sorts of things, but I do also

    believe he needs to serve an additional jail sentence. I understand he served nearly six

    and a half months, but the potential penalty that he could have faced is far more than

    that in prison, and so the People will be asking the Court to impose at least a 30 day

    sentence to jail in Larimer County, straight time, as an additional penalty for his

    involvement in this crime, and Your Honor, I should also note — I neglected to mention

    it in my recitation of facts — the defendant had been drinking on that night, which is just

    stunning to the People, particularly after reading the report about his mother and the

    injuries that she received as a result of the drunk driver. How Mr. Milton Brown could

    possibly have thought that it would be okay to drink knowing that these injuries had

    happened to his mother as a result of somebody else and he does almost the exact same

    thing, if not even worse, to somebody else is just amazing to the People, Your Honor,

    and that’s part of the reason we’re asking for a jail sentence at this point in time.

    “Your Honor, I think four months — I’m sorry — four years of probation is not

    doing justice to this crime. We would ask the Court to place him on at least eight years

    of probation. Again, refer the Court to the length of sentence he could have received if

    proven guilty of that first-degree assault. I think eight years gives us the full amount of

    time that he’s going to be in college, and as the Court knows, college is a — definitely a

    time when temptations exist, including alcohol, and we’re going to ask that one of his

    terms and conditions be he abstain from any alcohol or the involvement in any social

    activities or where he might be tempted to consume alcohol.


    “Eight years, Your Honor, I think is an appropriate sentence. If he gets

    completed through college and has no problems and is well into a career, a couple years

    after college he could petition for early termination. At this point in time the People

    may not be objecting to it, but I think he needs to have that long-term time frame of a

    third person keeping an eye over his shoulder, making sure he is doing things he needs

    to be doing in order to be comfortable this really was a one time mistake as opposed to

    got off scott free from having to go to prison a result of what I did. There’s only one

    person in the courtroom that knows whether or not Mr. Brown stomped on his head,

    and that’s Mr. Brown.

    “So Your Honor, those would be the recommendations of the People. I think that

    the defendant can do community service. We’d be asking for at least 60 hours per year

    of probation. We would ask for at least that 30-day jail sentence. The People are not

    interested in seeing him lose this opportunity to improve his life by going to college, but

    at the same time it was his past conduct that got him in this situation. Now, certainly,

    he can and the Court can, right now, sentence him to five months, and that would also

    have an impact on his ability to be going to college on this scholarship, but I think he

    needs to pay the price for what he did on that night, early morning hours, and I think

    the — with — the People are requesting a reasonable sentence. Even in light of the fact

    that he has convinced the victim that he deserves even more leniency, that doesn’t

    change the fact that what he did constituted a class three felony assault.”

    Judge John-David Sullivan.

    Finally, in sentencing Milton, the Court said, “The injuries suffered by Mr.

    Davison — he clearly indicated that someone hit him in the head, and the evidence

    would probably show at trial that it was the defendant that stomped on his head to

    cause the injuries. The defendant committed an offense, first degree assault, class three

    felony, and the penalties would be severe. The parties had initially agreed upon a

    sentence to the department of corrections — or at least was open — of up to four years in

    prison. The defendant was certainly deserving of a prison sentence, and the Court had

    made notations on the fact that a sentence to prison was an appropriate sentence.


    “In view of the meeting, conference between Mr. Davison and Mr. Brown and the

    families and the recommendation of Mr. Davison in this particular instance, at this time

    the Court is inclined to place the defendant on probation on count one for a period of

    five years on certain terms and conditions. One, that he perform 300 hours of useful

    public service. That he remain law-abiding. That he not consume any alcoholic

    beverages during that five-year period. That he remain law-abiding. That means not

    violating any criminal ordinance, statute, rule, or regulation of any governmental

    agency, and even traffic offenses could be considered a violation. That he not take or

    consume any illegal drugs or consume any drugs beyond the prescription that is

    prescribed specifically for him; in other words, that he not abuse the taking of those

    drugs. That he undertake whatever programs the probation department deems to be

    appropriate for his rehabilitation and fully complete those. That he also pay the $125 to

    the victims comp fund, $125 to the VALE fund, $30 in court costs, restitution in the

    amount of $3,182.25 to Safeway, $75 drug assessment fee, $47.98 in the extradition fee,

    and that — any supervisory fees that may be charged by the probation department. The

    Court will authorize probation to be transferred to any other jurisdiction if the

    probation department deems it to be appropriate.

    “The Court is not ordering any additional jail time. The defendant has served 199

    days in jail, and if it hasn’t taught him a lesson with respect to this criminal episode,

    then he will be back, and we can address the appropriate length of prison at that time.

    “Mr. Brown, you had a close brush with a very serious consequence. I hope you

    have learned. To your benefit, you’ve certainly had someone come to your aid that you

    hurt, as well as your family, and I hope that you follow their advice.” Mr. Brown

    responded, “I will.”

    Following the sentencing Milton returned to Cheyenne and immediately began

    assisting his high school football coach at a football camp, in addition to continuing to

    work at the pizza restaurant. In the fall he traveled to Missouri to begin attending

    college and playing football at Missouri Valley University.



    While interviewing the participants in this restorative justice process, the

    following comments were made. These comments can help us to improve the

    restorative justice conference process in the future.

    Bill Jones.

    The restorative justice conference is the preferred and accepted alternative. Such

    a conference calls for authenticity on the part of the victim and offender and puts the

    blame where it belongs. Milton would not have understood the impact, particularly the

    emotional impact to the Davison family in any other way, including incarceration and a

    fine. This process better serves victims.

    The weakness is prosecutors potentially lose their ability to monitor the progress

    of the case. This process relies on the integrity of the conference facilitators. In the

    future, Bill needs a more comprehensive report from the conference facilitator. He

    would like more analysis and feedback in the report, rather than merely a summary.

    Jeannine Davison.

    People who are perpetuated against need support from the judicial system, as

    well as from their family. Jeannine was disappointed with the Victims Assistance

    Program because the people there did not reach out to her as a victim, and instead

    relied on her to initiate contact. In the future, Jeannine would like for the victim

    advocates to keep her apprised of how Milton is doing.

    Jeannine suggested a hotline for victims be made available. She suggested this

    would be a good project for church volunteers.

    A less formal setting for the conference was another suggestion Jeannine made.

    She thought such an environment would help people with expressing emotions.

    Jeannine said Randy’s fear of people lasted four months, and the conference

    helped that reduce that fear because Randy was able to meet and get to know his

    assailant as a human being with a past. She emphasized the conference process needs

    to focused on the benefit to the victim.


    Eric Vanatta.

    This case was the first time Eric used a restorative justice conference. He felt it

    worked out great. The turning point in the case was when the victim, Randy, came

    forward and asked Bill if he could meet with the offender, Milton, face to face. Eric said

    this was the first time he experienced a victim sticking up for the defendant.

    Judge John-David Sullivan.

    This case, being viewed in light of restorative justice, hinged on the victim’s

    desire to give the defendant an opportunity to redeem himself and be reinstated into

    college on the football scholarship he was previously offered. The victim wanted the

    offender to be a productive citizen rather than have a felony record with no future.

    Judge Sullivan felt at the moment the case was a success story, and follow up will

    show whether the case remains a success. He believed restorative justice conferencing

    was particularly appropriate for defendants under the age of 19 and first time offenders.

    Hopefully, from this case we can learn options exist to prison sentences. Victims

    can have the opportunity to grieve, to heal, to accept an apology, and to forgive. The

    philosophy underlying this case study is restorative justice.


    1. What are the spiritual dimensions of this case


    2. What actions exemplify the respect for the dignity of each participant in this case


    3. How does this process demonstrate empowerment of the offender, victims, and the


    4. In what way did this process contribute to the common good of the community?


    5. Based on this case study, how might we create processes for healing wrongdoing

    which are sensitive to the needs of the dark-skinned, poor, mentally ill, and


      A Restorative Justice Adult Felony Case Study

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