FORT COLLINS - A man convicted of rioting in a Fort Collins neighborhood last spring left the courtroom in handcuffs Tuesday after a district judge surprised the defense by sending him directly to jail.
Kodi Noel, 24, at the sentencing hearing continued to insist he's innocent of the misdemeanor. But District Judge Thomas French said evidence shows he was a leader in the party-turned-riot, where people from a roughly 800-person crowd threw glass bottles, rocks and cans at police.
French sentenced Noel to 180 days in Larimer County Jail. Defense attorney Ginger Vidrine asked for more time, as Noel wasn't prepared to go straight into custody and had left his car parked outside. French responded: "No."
Deputy District Attorney Greg Biggers said in his sentencing argument that, given Noel's "ridiculous behavior" and denial of guilt, probation would be "a complete waste of time." He asked for three months to a year in jail, and Vidrine asked for probation with community service.
French said the police showed restraint in the way they handled the mob, and Noel clearly defied a direct order from officers to go home.
"This was serious stuff," French said. "I don't take it lightly."
Noel is the only one of 15 people, many of whom were Colorado State University students, charged or cited in connection with the late-night riot last April in the Summerhill Neighborhood. But he's the first to be sent to jail. He'd faced a felony charge of engaging in a riot with a deadly weapon, but a 12-person jury convicted him of the lesser misdemeanor charge.
A CSU student journalist, who's also a U.S. Marine veteran, testified in trial that he'd seen Noel throwing a glass bottle at officers. Officers who testified said they were peppered with shards as bottles were hurled into the rough and garage as the stood on an outdoor patio, waiting for other police inside to get the music turned off.
Because of the darkness and size of the crowd, police said they couldn't see exactly which people were throwing the bottles, rocks and cans. Once bottles started flying, police had retreated and put on riot gear. They began deploying tear gas into the crowd to make their way through it. After that is when the student journalist, Darin Hinman, said he saw Noel throw the bottle.
"He picked it up and threw it like a baseball at the officers," Hinman said.
After sentencing, Biggers said he's grateful police were OK after the riot and he's pleased with the way they handled the crowd.
(Copyright © 2014 Fort Collins Coloradoan, All Rights Reserved)