Fired officer accepts plea deal for stun gun incident while 75-year-old victim remains hospitalized

Problem Solvers

IDAHO SPRINGS, Colo. (KDVR) — A fired Idaho Springs police officer could avoid jail time under a plea deal that has enraged the victim’s family. Nicholas Hanning, 36, pleaded guilty to third-degree assault Thursday afternoon.

The agreement is part of a case involving body camera video that shows Hanning using his stun gun on 75-year-old Michael Clark without warning after Clark opened his door, not knowing police officers were standing on the other side.

Hanning was arrested July 7, more than a month after the May 30 incident. He was initially charged with felony assault of an at-risk person, but the third-degree assault charge he pleaded guilty to as part of his deal is a misdemeanor.

Just one day earlier, Gov. Jared Polis signed a new bill into law that mandates the release of body camera video in cases where an officer is accused of misconduct.

What happened in the incident

Hanning and his partner, Ellie Summers, were called to Clark’s apartment complex after a neighbor reported that he had punched her. The neighbor, who appears to be drunk in body camera video, told the officers Clark punched her because she was too loud and he was trying to sleep.

In an exclusive interview with the Problem Solvers on July 26, the same day he filed a civil lawsuit against the police department and officers involved, Clark said he had never met his brand-new neighbor before, let alone punch her.

“It’s absurd that the police officers jumped to a conclusion I was guilty,” Clark said at the time.

A day later, Clark suffered multiple seizures and a stroke. He has been hospitalized since.

Clark had already spent several weeks in the hospital following the May 30 incident. When the stun gun was used, he lost his balance, fell and hit his head on a dining room chair.

It’s unknown if he will make a full recovery, but since his stroke in late July, he can no longer use the bathroom or even sit up without assistance.

“If the reverse had happened and my dad came out in the hallway and attacked Officer Hanning, he would not be getting a single misdemeanor charge,” complained Jeremy Clark, son of Michael Clark.

“This is not fair. This is not justice. This does nothing for dad,” said Cynthia Flageolle, Clark’s daughter. “It shows everybody that the police can get away with whatever they want.”

Victim objects to plea deal from hospital bed

During the hearing Thursday, Clark’s family played a video of him in his hospital bed saying he objected to the plea deal and telling the judge he deserved justice, which would include more than a misdemeanor charge.

Attorney Sarah Schielke, who has filed a civil lawsuit against Hanning and the Idaho Springs Police Department, said the family provided a note from Clark’s doctor saying he suffered “serious bodily injury,” the legal threshold for felony assault.

Hanning was fired by the Idaho Springs Police Department in July and agreed to give up his peace officer training certification in October, which means he can never serve as an officer in the state of Colorado again.

Heidi McCollum, the district attorney for the Fifth Judicial District, which includes Idaho Springs, told the Problem Solvers the plea deal was appropriate.

“We agree with public sentiment in this case, that police officers need to be held accountable for their actions. As part of the guilty plea entered by Defendant Hanning today, he will be stripped of his ability to ever again work in law enforcement in the State of Colorado, and will be further subject to a potential jail sentence of up to 24 months if the court deems appropriate,” McCollum said.

During the same hearing, Clark’s family filed a motion to have the district attorney removed from the case and replaced by a special prosecutor. A hearing on that motion will be held on Jan. 6.

If the judge accepts that motion, the plea deal will be vacated. If the motion is rejected, sentencing for Hanning will take place on Jan. 27, when he will face up to two years in prison.

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