A 21-year-old Durango man accused of sexual assault on a woman involving a shotgun with two other men in October 2017 was sentenced Friday to three years of community corrections.
James Thomas Zink was accused of sexually assaulting a Fort Lewis College student in October 2017 in a reported gang rape with two other men, Devin Bond and Anthony Fitts.
Zink pleaded guilty in 2018 to second-degree assault, a Class 4 felony, and two counts of attempted sexual assault, a Class 5 felony, and was sentenced to 10 years in prison followed by 10 years of probation.
Bond, however, went to trial in May 2019 where the alleged victim testified that at least some of the sexual acts on the night of the assault were consensual.
Bond’s trial ultimately resulted in a mistrial after a 12-person jury could not unanimously decide on a verdict. A few months later, prosecutors dismissed charges against Bond, who had spent 19 months in jail.
Fitts, who had pleaded guilty to second-degree assault and two counts of sexual assault, had spent eight months in prison when the new information came to light. Charges against him, too, were dismissed and he was released.
Zink’s defense attorneys moved to renegotiate the plea agreement and charges against him. Investigators say Zink racked a shotgun to intimidate the alleged victim into sexual contact.
Zink pleaded guilty in October to felony menacing, and faced up to six years in the Department of Corrections.
Zink’s public defender, Barrie Newberger King, requested Friday a sentence of probation instead of prison, arguing a prison sentence will not offer treatment to help him rehabilitate.
Newberger King added that Zink has been in jail for about three years, so if he was sentenced to prison, he would likely be released sooner rather than later given the amount of credit he has for time served.
“Probation, quite frankly, would be the hardest of any sentences in this scenario,” she said.
District Judge William Herringer instead sentenced Zink to three years of community corrections at Hilltop House, with no credit for time served, saying it strikes a balance between restrictive supervision and rehabilitation.
Herringer said Zink has shown no signs he would be successful solely on probation. And Herringer said if a prison sentence were imposed, Zink would soon be released without having received any treatments.
“This really is not about what place you want to go,” Herringer said. “It’s about what you make out of it.”
Speaking to the court, Zink apologized for his actions that night, and asked for help to treat his drug addiction.
“Words can’t take away my actions from that night,” he said. “I’m asking for an opportunity to improve my mistakes and my addictions.”
According to arrest affidavits, Zink and the two other men offered a woman a ride home from a party in northeast Durango. The woman was expecting to be taken to Fort Lewis College.
Instead, she was driven around town. Once parked, Zink threatened the woman with a shotgun and forced her to perform sexual acts on the men.
It was also reported that Zink urinated in the woman’s mouth, an act Herringer called “one of the most disturbing things I’ve seen.”
In a previous court hearing, Zink’s mother said her son had a difficult upbringing that involved abuse, and he suffered an uncertain life as a juvenile while she battled a brain tumor.
“You have to figure out a way to deal with your trauma,” Herringer said Friday. “I hope we don’t see each other again, because that will mean you’ve succeeded.”
If Zink does not meet the terms of community corrections, Herringer said Zink will be resentenced, likely with prison time.
The alleged victim in the case did not make a statement to the court Friday.