IDAHO SPRINGS, Colo. — A judge on Thursday conditionally approved a plea deal for a former Idaho Springs police officer who faces charges related to a May 30 incident in which he tased a 75-year-old man.
Nicholas Hanning pleaded guilty to a single misdemeanor count of third-degree assault during the hearing Thursday. The charge stems from an incident on May 30, when Hanning tased 75-year-old Michael Clark while responding to an assault report made by Clark's neighbor.
The plea could be vacated, though, due to a motion filed at the last minute by the attorney representing Clark's family.
>The video above aired earlier this week, ahead of the expected deal.
Sarah Schielke filed a motion Thursday morning asking the judge to reject the plea deal, remove the 5th Judicial District Attorney’s Office from the case and appoint a special prosecutor to take over.
Schielke said there was a "dereliction of duty" on the part of the prosecutor's office, and that there was "special treatment" of Hanning from beginning to end due to his position as a member of law enforcement.
For their part, prosecutors denied there was any special treatment, and said the deal was offered based on Hanning's lack of criminal history and his willingness to take responsibility.
The judge said due to the late filing, she could not consider that motion on Thursday, but said arguments should be heard on the issue and set a hearing for Jan. 6 at 2 p.m. Should the court find that a special prosecutor is indeed warranted, the plea would be vacated and things would start over.
On May 30, according to prosecutors, Hanning and another officer named Ellie Summers were responding to a call regarding an alleged assault on a woman by her neighbor in the middle of the night.
When officers contacted the neighbor, who was later identified as Clark, he was holding a “sword-like weapon with what appeared to be teeth along both edges,” according to a news release from the district attorney’s office. Idaho Springs Police gave a similar description.
Hanning and Clark got into a fight, the release said, and he deployed his stun gun after he and other officers gave multiple commands.
Schielke obtained and released body camera footage that she said paints a very different account of what happened.
The footage shows the officers banging on Clark's door before he opens it and yells, "what do you want?"
There's quickly a physical confrontation, with the officers yelling at Clark to "put it down."
In the video, Clark turns and sets something on top of a nearby dresser, and then turns back toward officers without anything in his hands.
> The video below shows video from Summers' body camera. Viewer discretion is advised.
The officers ordered him to get to the ground, but he refused, and instead began to explain that his neighbors hit the wall so hard, he thought they were going to come through it. Seconds later, the video shows Clark being tased while the officers are several feet away.
Clark lost consciousness and flew backward from the tasing, the video shows. His attorney said he struck his head on a dining room chair on the way down.
Clark was ultimately hospitalized with heart complications, and had a stroke within days of the incident, according to Schielke.
He was never charged with any crime.
Two of Clark's children also spoke during Thursday's hearing and said they had little or no contact with the prosecutor's office ahead of the deal, despite reaching out on multiple occasions.
If the plea stands, sentencing is set for Jan. 27, and Hanning faces six to 24 months in jail.
Anyone who works in law enforcement in Colorado must be certified by Colorado Peace Officer Standards & Training (POST). According to the Colorado Attorney General's office, the Idaho Springs Police Department notified POST of its internal investigation involving Hanning in July.
On Oct. 20, Hanning voluntarily relinquished his POST certification. That was accepted during a meeting on Dec. 3. The decertification means he cannot serve as a peace officer in Colorado ever again.
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