ELKO – A Utah man was found guilty of kicking an officer when he was placed under arrest at a West Wendover casino in May.
Jason Vialpando, 29, appeared in Elko District Court before Judge Al Kacin, pleading not guilty to one count of battery by a prisoner, three counts of battery on an officer, two counts of intimidating a public officer, and two counts of assault on an officer while in custody.
On Friday, the jury found Vialpando guilty of battery on an officer, a misdemeanor; and intimidating a public officer and assault on a public officer, both gross misdemeanors.
For the battery and assault on an officer charges, Vialpando could receive up to 364 days in jail and be fined up to $2,000 on each count; and receive 6 months in jail and be fined up to $1,000 on the other charge.
The charges stemmed from an incident May 14 at the Wendover Nugget Hotel and Casino where Vialpando was taken into custody by West Wendover police.
Body camera footage presented to the jury by District Attorney Mark Mills showed the handcuffed defendant arguing with officers as they tried to place him in a patrol car and visibly kicking Sgt. Jason Abrams.
Vialpando was also shown arguing and uttering threatening statements to the officers on the scene, Tomas Ramirez and Cutter Love.
After the verdict was read late Friday afternoon, Kacin thanked the jurors for sitting through an extra day of testimony than was estimated.
“You were dealing with technical legalities, determining probable cause, specific intent and self-defense,” Kacin said.
Mills, in his closing argument, asked the jury to find Vialpando guilty on all charges, explaining that the state had to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Vialpando was in lawful custody when he willfully and unlawfully used violence and uttered threats on the officers, committing battery by kicking, hitting and pushing them.
Pointing to the body cam video, Mills also said Vialpando was not acting out of self-defense, reminding the jury that the officers spoke calmly to the defendant and used reasonable levels of force to try to get him into the patrol car.
Deputy Public Defender Matthew Pennell argued that Vialpando hesitated when first approached by officer Love, feeling “harassed” and “mistreated,” later pulling away from officers.
Pennell said the defendant also could not carry out immediate or future threats, reminding jurors that after the altercations, Vialpando was still handcuffed and lying on the ground as police waited for a patrol car with a cage from Utah to put him in.
Kacin said a pre-sentence report would be ordered to look into Vialpando’s criminal history, noting that both sides “felt strong enough to bring the case to court.”
“I felt this was an extremely odd case of what happened in the field,” Kacin said.
A date for sentencing will be set within 60 days, and will include victim impact statements from the officers involved.
Vialpando remains free on bail.
This article has been updated to include the penalties for the charges.