POCATELLO — A local business owner who faced up to 20 years in prison for allegedly shooting at two people during an eight-person brawl in Old Town in 2017 was sentenced to unsupervised probation Tuesday.
Darin “D’Beau” Black, 48, of Pocatello, received the sentence of six months of unsupervised probation during a hearing in front of 6th District Judge Steven Thomsen in the Bannock County Courthouse.
Black appeared relieved at the conclusion of the hearing.
“Today, I have been sentenced for protecting myself and two associates from a vicious attack by five assailants who knew each other from training at a mixed martial arts gym,” Black said in a written statement sent to the Journal after the hearing. “Make no mistake, the ‘peace’ I disturbed was responding to an unprovoked and unwarranted attack. I feared for my life, I feared for the lives of my friends and I feared for the security of my property. I have never intentionally assaulted anyone with a deadly weapon in my life. This was an obvious case of self defense.”
Black had initially faced three felony charges — two counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and an enhancement charge for using a firearm during the commission of a crime.
He was charged for his role in a fracas that involved five men attacking a couple in an alleyway near his skateboard shop on West Center Street in September 2017.
The attack left two of the five men hospitalized with stab wounds inflicted by the woman as she attempted to defend herself and her boyfriend. Black also tried to defend the couple and allegedly fired a pistol twice toward two of the attackers.
Those two shots did not hit anyone but resulted in police charging Black with the three felonies.
The woman, Cheyenne Rodgers, her boyfriend, Cody Howell, and one of the attackers, William Mastel, were each charged with disturbing the peace for their alleged roles in the brawl. Mastel was also charged with misdemeanor battery. However, prosecutors dropped that charge in exchange for Mastel pleading guilty to the disturbing the peace charge.
Rodgers and Howell are each challenging the charges against them. Rodgers is set to take her case to trial on June 18, and Howell’s trial is set to begin on June 11.
The Pocatello attorney who handled Black’s case, Bron Rammell, is also handling the cases for Rodgers and Howell, too.
After Black’s hearing Tuesday, Rammell said it was a shame that Black had to wait nearly two years to see a resolution in his case, adding that Black’s decision to plead guilty to the disturbing the peace charge last month was not an admission of guilt, but was rather based on financial concerns.
“I think it’s a shame that the community and the Blacks were forced to bear a tremendous burden and cost dealing with charges that never should have been brought,” Rammell said. “(Black) was defending himself and two people who were attacked by five martial artists. I think it was a bad policy and a bad example to the community to bring these charges and force someone to deal with them in a way that becomes financially ruinous.”
Black’s case involved several pre-trial motions before he recently reached a plea deal with prosecutors. One of the motions Rammell filed asked the Idaho Supreme Court to look at the case. The Idaho Supreme Court ultimately did not look at the case.
The Bannock County deputy prosecutor handling the case, Ashley Graham, told the Journal earlier this month that both sides reached a plea agreement because one of the most integral witnesses in the case, Volkan Atkas, decided he no longer wanted to testify. Atkas is one of the two men Black is accused of shooting at.
Rammell said the defense was never notified about Atkas’ change of heart.
“I am disturbed that the state withheld information that their key witness had decided not to come forward for whatever reason,” Rammell said. “I am not sure whether (Atkas) felt guilty or whether he was an individual who never felt comfortable presenting himself as a victim in this case.”
Rammell also said that Black’s case has put a significant damper on Black’s business. He encouraged the community to show their support of Black by stopping by the skateboard shop he owns on West Center Street.
“I would hope that the community would rally behind (Black) knowing that in the words of the two victims who were attacked, he was a hero,” Rammell said. “They are grateful for what he did because he very may well have saved them from serious mayhem or harm.”
And for Black, he is left with serious concerns about the justice system in Bannock County following the resolution of his case.
“The message that … (Bannock County) prosecutors (Steve) Herzog, (Zach) Parris, (Ashley) Graham and the State of Idaho sent to its citizens today is that they would rather use the justice system as tool for vengeance than for appropriating true justice,” Black said. “Miss Graham and the State did their best to take away my civil rights, but today they are taking the (loss).”
In response to Black’s comments, Herzog said that everyone is entitled to their own opinion, though he declined to comment further on the matter.