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N. Colorado backup punter says he was cursed at by detectives


A former Northern Colorado punter accused of stabbing the starter testified Tuesday that he felt bullied while being interrogated by detectives and that he implied he wanted a lawyer, only to be ignored.

Mitchell Cozad, who is charged with attempted first-degree murder, swiveled in his chair on the witness stand as he answered questions from his attorney, Joseph Gavaldon. During the hearing, Cozad’s attorney sought to suppress statements Cozad made to investigators. The judge did not immediately rule.

Cozad is accused of leaving a 3- to 5-inch deep gash in Rafael Mendoza’s kicking leg during a Sept. 11 ambush. Police have said they believe Cozad stabbed Mendoza in an attempt to get the starting job.

When asked why he spoke to investigators without an attorney, Cozad testified, “I had nothing to hide.”

Cozad has pleaded not guilty and remains free on $500,000 bail. If found guilty of attempted murder, he could face up to 48 years in prison.

The case is set to go to trial July 30, but Gavaldon said lawyers were negotiating to resolve the case without going to trial. Chief Deputy District Attorney Michele Meyer declined to comment on any possible plea deal.

Cozad’s testimony Tuesday took about 35 minutes. As he spoke, Florence Mendoza, the mother of Rafael Mendoza, sat on a bench with her arms folded, intently listening to the testimony.

On Sept. 12, Cozad was interviewed by Evans police Detective George Roosevelt in the office of Nathan Cole, the university’s coordinator for student rights and responsibilities.

Cole testified in May about bringing an eviction notice and a no-trespass letter to Cozad’s dorm room that day. Cozad, who was suspended from the university and kicked off the team, had an hour to vacate his dorm room. So Cozad sat in Cole’s office, waiting for his mom to arrive from Wheatland, Wyo.

She called him on her way down and told him to go to a motel until she could get there. Cozad testified Tuesday that Cole, after talking to the detectives on the scene, told Cozad that due to the seriousness of the situation he could not leave.

Cozad’s mother arrived around 3:40 p.m. and was allowed to speak with him.

“What we negotiated was I would go in and visit with Mitchell and find out if he had any knowledge of the incident,” Suzanne Cozad said of the deal with Roosevelt. “If he didn’t have any involvement, he would go home with me (that night). I kept my word to find out the truth. He didn’t have any knowledge of this. I told that to him (Roosevelt), and he said that wasn’t going to work.”

Cozad said he was given two options: Waive his rights and answer two questions and go home or ask for an attorney. If the attorney didn’t arrive in five minutes, go to jail.

Cozad said he reluctantly waived his rights.

Around 5:22 p.m. that day, Cozad said he was interviewed by police and that the tape recorder they used was shut off three times.

“The first time, he said, ‘You little (expletive). You better start telling me the truth or you’re going to jail for a very long time,'” Cozad said.

Cozad said the next two times he or his mother, who was also in the office, were berated by the detectives. He finally said, “I’m done,” at which point he was arrested.

Prosecutors argued Cozad didn’t ask for a lawyer, but Gavaldon contended it was implied. Cozad testified that he said, “My mom wanted me to wait (to talk) until we have a lawyer” as he waited for her.

“I think it’s clear: He wants a lawyer, and they’re ignoring it,” Gavaldon said. “From the time he was escorted to Mr. Cole’s office to saying ‘I’m done,’ eight times he requested a lawyer. It doesn’t have to be the magic words, ‘I want a lawyer.'”

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