Capote case heads to jury in Steamboat
Eduardo Capote and his wife take witness stand during final day of testimony
February 9, 2010
Steamboat Springs — Eduardo Capote took the stand as the final witness in his own defense Monday, bringing an end to the fifth day of testimony in the Steamboat Springs assault trial. After closing arguments today, the assault trial of Eduardo and David Capote will go to the jury.
Eduardo Capote did not deny Monday that he hit Richard Lopez during the Jan. 1, 2009, fight that led to Lopez's death. But he said he did so to protect his family, and he claimed that he didn't know he landed any solid punches during the altercation at Seventh Street and Lincoln Avenue. Lopez died several days later in a Denver hospital of severe head trauma caused when he fell to the pavement and hit his head.
The fight was the result of an argument that began about jukebox song selection. The Capotes' group, which included Eduardo's wife and David's girlfriend, and Lopez's group, which included Steamboat Springs brothers Tim and Michael Wesley Mottlau, left the restaurant where the argument began and later encountered each other at Seventh Street and Lincoln Avenue.
Eduardo Capote testified that after arguing again at the intersection, Lopez and the Mottlaus started to walk away from the Capote group. Eduardo Capote was standing with his wife, his brother and his brother's girlfriend.
Eduardo Capote testified that his brother was shouting at the Mottlaus that the Capotes were with their wife and girlfriend. Eduardo Capote testified that Richard Lopez said he didn't care who they were with and that Lopez "broke away" from Michael Mottlau's restraint to "charge" toward the Capotes.
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Eduardo Capote then said he pushed the other members of his group back toward the curb, shed his jacket and charged at Lopez. When the two met, they started fighting.
"I see him raise his arm, and I just started swinging," Eduardo Capote said.
Eduardo Capote said he had never been in a fight before and didn't know what he was doing.
"If you're not in that situation you won't understand, but it was a complete reaction, and I just knew what I had to do to protect my family," he said.
Eduardo Capote said that after he started fighting with Lopez, Michael Mottlau stepped in and the two of them began to fight. Eduardo Capote said he did not know what happened to Lopez.
Michael Mottlau previously testified that he ran back to assist Lopez and was hit in the process. Mottlau testified that he dropped to his hands and knees and covered Lopez's head with his chest to try to protect his injured friend.
Both Capote brothers are charged with misdemeanor third-degree assault for fighting with Michael Mottlau, and Eduardo Capote also is charged with a more serious second-degree assault stemming from his fight with Lopez.
During cross examination, Deputy District Attorney Rusty Prindle questioned Eduardo Capote about the way the fight happened. Eduardo Capote said Richard Lopez was more than three-fourths of the way across the crosswalk of Seventh Street when he started moving back toward the Capotes. Other witnesses have testified that Lopez was found unconscious near the center of the crosswalk, and Prindle attempted to have Eduardo Capote re-enact how the two men could have walked toward one another with Lopez landing where first responders reported finding him. Eduardo Capote did the re-enactment, but said he wasn't sure of the distances and wasn't clear on how it happened.
Prindle also asked about a line in a report by Steamboat Springs Police Department Detective Nick Bosick that said Eduardo Capote initially denied hitting "the Hispanic man" later identified as Lopez. Eduardo Capote denied he ever said that.
Wife testifies about night
Desiree Capote, Eduardo's wife, also took the stand Monday. She cried several times Monday morning at the Routt County Justice Center as she described the events of that night.
Desiree Capote said she and Eduardo Capote had dinner at a downtown steak house, then went to the Tap House Sports Grill to meet David Capote and his girlfriend.
Desiree Capote said that while at the Tap House, they began playing music on the jukebox. She said that as she questioned what song was on the jukebox, Michael Mottlau, who testified earlier that he had picked the song, became angry and heckled their music choices and insulted the women.
Michael Mottlau testified last week that it was the Capotes' group that began heckling him and his companions for their song choices, including making comments that the Mottlaus were homosexual.
Desiree Capote's testimony also varied in other ways from what was presented by previous witnesses in the trial that began last week.
She said Tim Mottlau grabbed her by the shoulders during the scuffle at Seventh Street, shook her and "threw her" backward, but that she did not fall. She said she had marks on her arms but did not show them to a detective during an interview the following day because he did not ask. No previous witness has mentioned any physical altercation involving Desiree Capote, but Eduardo Capote also said he saw the incident.
When asked why she or another member of the group did not call police in the aftermath of the downtown altercation, Desiree Capote testified that Eduardo Capote Sr., father of David and Eduardo Capote, advised them not to because they were leaving the next day and did not want to press charges.
The trial was scheduled to last until Friday, but closing arguments, limited to one hour for each side, will conclude today, sending the case to the jury of seven men and seven women, including the two alternates.