Sullivan sentenced to 48 years in prison

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The man who pointed a gun at police officers in March of 2011 was sentenced Tuesday morning to 48 years in prison.

District Court Judge Douglas Walker lumped all the felonies together for Zachary Sullivan in coming to the 48-year prison term.

Sullivan was convicted of attempted first-degree murder for turning a gun on a police officer and pulling the trigger after deputies stopped to talk to him. The gun jammed and deputies returned fire resulting in Sullivan being transported to a Denver hospital for his wounds.

Deputy Patrick Spencer urged the court to put Sullivan away for a long time.

“He is a violent person,” Spencer said at the sentencing hearing. “Put him away. He had every intention of shooting me that night.”

He said the only thing that saved him and others was Sullivan’s gun jammed when Sullivan pulled the trigger.

“Put him away long enough so he can’t do this to anyone again if he ever gets out,” Spencer said.

Walker asked Sullivan if he had anything to say before pronouncing sentencing. Sullivan’s attorney had no comment.

District Attorney Russell Wasley asked for a sentence of 96 years in prison, pointing out that Sullivan was a habitual offender.

The charges of attempted murder and aggravated assault, the DA said, should result in a 48-year sentence on each of the counts, and that they should run consecutively.

He also said the offenses were crimes of violence.

“Look at the package as a whole,” he said. “We had two officers whose lives were threatened. The motive was he did not want to go back to prison, so he was going to shoot himself out.”

He said the gun was first pointed at Spencer. Sullivan turned and pointed the gun at Deputy Dallas Coker before pulling the trigger.

“It is a grace of God that the gun the defendant held on the night in question jammed,” Wasley said, and added the jury determined that Sullivan was going to shoot Coker.

“This isn’t a case that is hanging by a thread,” the DA said.

Wasley told the court about Sullivan’s violent past, including when the defendant was convicted of attempted possession of attempted contraband (a shank) while in prison.

Wasley believed this shank had been used by Sullivan in the stabbing of a fellow inmate, and Mark Martin, chief investigator for the 22nd Judicial District, said the shank was discovered in a room that prisoners used to meet with attorneys and Sullivan was the only person who had been using this room.

Prison officials received an anonymous note of people to be shanked and Sullivan was on the list, Wasley said, and added the wounds of the stabbed prisoner were consistent with the shank found in the room.

Martin, under cross examination from defense attorney John Baxter, said he had not reviewed the police reports in the matter, and conceded the weapon was not found on Sullivan.

Wasley, in trying to show a pattern of Sullivan’s criminal past, called Montezuma County Sheriff Detective Jason Spruell to the witness stand to talk about a 2001 robbery of the Comfort Inn motel where Sullivan and his three accomplices stole $271.

Wasley also told the court about Sullivan being accused in New Mexico for larceny, being in possession of a firearm and possession of a controlled substance.

“He is a danger to the community, and that is why we are asking for 96 years,” he said.

Baxter pointed out that in the robbery case, Sullivan was unarmed while two of his accomplices had guns, and after entering a no-contest plea received a substantial prison term.

Baxter also said the shank was never linked to any stabbing and pointed out there was no blood on the weapon.

He added that his client was not armed when deputies shot him in the back as he fled from them and said that since his client is in his 30s there is not a big difference between 48 and 96 years in prison.

Sullivan also received two sentences, one for one year and another one for six months in the county jail for two misdemeanors, though both will run concurrently with the prison term.

Reach Michael Maresh at michaelm@cortezjournal.com