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Judge orders release of suspect in beating with shovel

Copyright © 2017 Albuquerque Journal

A man accused of attacking a high school girl in 2008 will be released from jail as soon as he can find someone to supervise him while he remains on “basically house arrest” pending trial, an Albuquerque judge ruled Tuesday.

Brittani Marcell, left and her sister Jennifer Marcell wait for the bond hearing of Justin Hansen, who is accused in the September 2008 beating

Brittani Marcell, left and her sister Jennifer Marcell wait for the bond hearing of Justin Hansen, who is accused in the September 2008 beating . (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

Second Judicial District Judge Charles Brown denied a prosecution request Tuesday to hold Justin Hansen in jail with no bond on charges that he beat the teen into a coma, leaving her blind in one eye and deaf in one ear. He was taken into custody just one week ago.

Instead, Brown said Hansen will be released if and when he can find a “responsible citizen” to stay with, who will “make sure he lives there, stays there, he’ll never be unaccompanied anywhere.” Brown also ordered GPS monitoring and told Hansen he may only leave that home with permission from pretrial services.

“I want him in somebody’s pocket all the time,” Brown said.

Hansen, 33, is accused of beating then-17-year-old Brittani Marcell with a shovel in 2008 on the city’s West Side. The attack left Marcell, a high school senior, in a coma.

Brittani Marcell, left, and her mother, Diane Marcell, speak with reporters after the hearing for Justin Hansen, who is accused of attacking Brittani years ago

Brittani Marcell, left, and her mother, Diane Marcell, speak with reporters after the hearing for Justin Hansen, who is accused of attacking Brittani years ago. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

In the years since, Marcell had to relearn to speak, walk and eat. She sat with friends and relatives during the lengthy hearing in a courtroom filled to capacity.

Speaking to reporters after the hearing, Marcell said she was disappointed with Brown’s decision. She said she is still recovering and is living with lasting effects from the attack, but the person responsible has been able to lead a normal life.

She worries Hansen could attack the person supervising him and flee.

State District Judge Charles Brown said Justin Hansen will be released if he can find a "responsible citizen" to stay with, who will "make sure he lives there, stays there, he'll never be unaccompanied anywhere."

State District Judge Charles Brown said Justin Hansen will be released if he can find a “responsible citizen” to stay with, who will “make sure he lives there, stays there, he’ll never be unaccompanied anywhere.” (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

“I think he should just be behind bars,” she said. “There’s other girls out there.”

Police took Hansen into custody last week on charges including attempted murder.

His defense attorney, Rose Osborne, said that the state apprehended the wrong person and that her client is not a danger to the community or to Marcell, who lives out of state. She suggested that regular check-ins with pretrial services would ensure his future appearance in court.

Hansen’s family filled multiple rows in the courtroom, and his ex-wife took the stand to tell the court that Hansen is loving and selfless, “the best father I’ve ever known.”

From left, Alicia Marcell, her sister Kathlein Guinn, Brittani Marcell, her mother, Diane Marcell, and sister Jennifer Marcell, at the detention hearing for Justin Hansen, who is accused of attacking Brittani nearly nine years ago

From left, Alicia Marcell, her sister Kathlein Guinn, Brittani Marcell, her mother, Diane Marcell, and sister Jennifer Marcell, at the detention hearing for Justin Hansen, who is accused of attacking Brittani nearly nine years ago. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

The state argued that Hansen is too dangerous to release and that he left Marcell living in constant fear for her safety.

“There is still a risk that a defendant who could do that would want to finish what he started,” prosecutor David Waymire said.

But Brown, who called the crime horrible, said Hansen has not committed crimes after the attack and had years to flee but never did.

A public safety assessment designed to show how likely a criminal defendant is to reoffend or skip out on a court date placed Hansen at the lowest level on the risk spectrum and recommended that he be released.

Detectives said Marcell, now 26, slowly began to recall pieces of her life around the time of the attack, and those details put Hansen – her friend’s ex-boyfriend – on APD’s radar.

Police trailed Hansen and recovered a McDonald’s cup he discarded. They say the DNA recovered from the cup matched blood found in Marcell’s home.

Although Hansen has no felony convictions, prosecutors presented testimony regarding multiple complaints in his history. Among them were rape and domestic violence allegations raised by a previous girlfriend, and an alleged battery on a pregnant girlfriend in 2004.

Hansen’s defense attorney disputed those allegations and pointed out that the woman who initially raised rape allegations said later that the incident was consensual. And she pointed out that the second incident report showed Hansen himself had visible injuries, though the woman did not.

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