Judge calls ski rage plea 'lenient'

Man who assaulted 16-year-old girl could face more severe punishment

— A Routt County judge gave tentative approval Wednesday to a plea deal reached in the case involving a Littleton man who assaulted a 16-year-old girl on the slopes of Steamboat Ski Area in January.

Routt County Judge James Garrecht told the court he would need additional documents before he felt comfortable sentencing Randell Berg, 52, to the terms of the agreement reached with the District Attorney's Office.

The plea deal was supported by Larry Combs, Berg's attorney, and deputy district attorney Tam--my Jensen. But Garrecht said he thought Berg's punish--ment should be harsher than what was stipulated in the plea agreement.

"My gut reaction is that this plea is much more lenient than Mr. Berg would be entitled to," Garrecht said. "This is a very bizarre occurrence. No one should ever be assaulted on a ski slope. It's outrageous a grown man would attack a woman. It's even more outrageous for that woman to be a young girl."

Berg was arrested in January on suspicion of attacking and punching a 16-year-old female snowboarder who collided with Berg's 8-year-old daughter on the Headwall ski run. Police said witnesses restrained Berg after he punched the Steamboat teenager several times in the head and neck. He also was reported to have yelled profanities at the girl.

Police said Berg later told them that after making sure his daughter was OK, he "just lost control."

Neither girl was seriously injured during the incident.

Berg agreed to plea guilty to misdemeanor third-degree assault. In exchange for the guilty plea, Jensen told Garrecht that Berg would serve one year of unsupervised probation, take at least eight hours of anger management classes, perform 80 hours of community service and serve a two-day jail sentence.

During the hearing Wed--nesday, Jensen told Garrecht that the victim and her family agreed to the conditions of the plea, as did Berg.

"He seems to be very remorseful. He has taken full responsibility for the charge," she said.

Jensen told Garrecht that Berg has a relatively clean criminal record; he was convicted of misdemeanor disorderly conduct in 1977. Jensen said the plea was appropriate based on Berg's minimal criminal history and because he didn't deny his involvement in the January incident.

Berg's attorney, Larry Combs, echoed Jensen's sentiment.

"Mr. Berg has no hesitation admitting that what he did was wrong. He's been humiliated by the harm he's caused this young lady. He's never treated someone so badly in his life," Combs said.

Combs said his client had no excuse for his actions but could offer a possible explanation.

"Over the last few months, Mr. Berg has been trying to understand what happened. He has explained to me that it was just a flash of anger that he couldn't control. Some would say it is the natural instinct of a father fearing for his daughter's safety," Combs said.

"No one has ever seen this man act out of anger. He's not impulsive by nature."

Attorney Charles Feldmann, representing the victim and her family, said the victim's family was satisfied with the plea agreement.

"(The family) is relieved to hear the apology from Mr. Berg and that he is taking responsibility for his actions," Feldmann said.

The victim didn't attend Wednesday's hearing, but her mother did.

Garrecht told Jensen, Combs and Feldmann that he would tentatively accept Berg's guilty plea but that he would postpone sentencing for six weeks to allow time for a pre-sentencing investigation to be prepared.

Judges use pre-sentencing investigations to provide additional insight into a case, including the defendant's background.

"I understand this is what the deal is, but I need to determine if it's fair and reasonable. There are some loose ends to this plea that concern the court, and we need to make sure we get those wrapped up," Garrecht said.

Berg is scheduled to appear in Routt County Court at 11 a.m. April 19.

-- To reach Alexis DeLaCruz, call 871-4234

or e-mail adelacruz@steamboatpilot.com

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