No jail time for ex-Idaho Springs police officer who shocked unarmed 75-year-old with Taser

On May 2, 2021, Michael Clark bought a new Jeep so he could fish and pan gold in remote areas near his Idaho Springs home.

Twenty-eight days later, Idaho Springs police Officer Nicholas Hanning fired a Taser at the unarmed 75-year-old retiree, who banged his head as he dropped to the floor.

The electrical shock and fall sparked a cascade of medical issues and obliterated Clark’s independence, his daughter Cynthia Flageolle said Thursday during the former officer’s sentencing hearing. Since the May 30 incident, Clark has not been able to eat or dress himself, much less drive his Jeep into the mountains.

“Hanning has taken a man who was a million percent independent and destroyed that,” Flageolle told the judge, imploring her to impose the maximum sentence of two years in jail.

Instead, Clear Creek District Court Judge Cynthia Jones ruled Thursday that Hanning will serve two years of supervised probation and complete 150 hours of community service for assaulting Clark.

“What happened here is inexcusable but I do have to consider all the factors,” Jones said.

Jones said Hanning’s actions were “an abuse on the public trust by a police officer” and a violation of his training, but that she also had to consider the low likelihood he would re-offend, his lack of previous criminal history and the fact that he has a job with a trucking company and social support from his friends and family. She also said she did not want to sentence him to jail because it would cost the county’s taxpayers.

“Part of my consideration here is to not cost our taxpayers any more,” Jones said.

Hanning, 36, pleaded guilty Dec. 9 to misdemeanor third-degree assault in the 2021 incident as part of a plea deal that made his maximum possible sentence two years in jail and a $5,000 fine. Hanning also agreed to never again work as a Colorado law enforcement officer.

Prosecutors with the Fifth Judicial District Attorney’s Office originally charged Hanning with felony assault of an at-risk adult, which has a maximum sentence of 18 months in prison and a $100,000 fine.

Hanning apologized to Clark and his family during his sentencing hearing Thursday and said he regretted his actions that day.

“I tarnished the badge I once wore,” he said.

Hanning and another officer, Ellie Summers, knocked on Clark’s door May 30 without announcing themselves after a neighbor reported Clark punched her in the face over a noise complaint. Clark was not charged with a crime in connection to the alleged assault.

Clark, wearing only boxer shorts, answered the door holding a saw-tooth sword, body camera footage shows, but put it away after speaking with the officers. Hanning fired the Taser at Clark without warning as Clark spoke to the officers. Hanning later placed his knee on the back of Clark’s neck while handcuffing the unconscious man.

Prosecutors charged Hanning with assault on July 21 and he was fired four days later.

Prosecutors on Thursday did not ask the judge for the maximum sentence or make any specific sentence recommendation. Chief Deputy District Attorney Stephen Potts called Hanning’s actions a “tragic, tragic, tragic error.”

“It’s a bad situation,” Potts said. “It’s a terrible thing what happened to Mr. Clark. But we can’t fix that now in these proceedings.”

Clark’s family opposed the plea deal negotiated by the prosecutors’ office and unsuccessfully sought the appointment of a special prosecutor to the case.

Clark’s son, daughter, daughter-in-law and attorney all asked Jones to impose a two-year jail sentence. Clark did not speak during the sentencing hearing because he was hospitalized and struggles to talk, the family’s attorney Sarah Schielke said.

“Anyone who is attempting to paint this as a mistake is being disingenuous,” Schielke said.

Clark’s family now lives in fear, Flageolle said. Every phone call could be bearing bad news about her dad. Clark has been hospitalized 190 of the 242 days since Hanning’s assault, Flageolle said. Instead of enjoying holidays with his family, he is learning to sit upright in a chair again.

“We have suffered through this case and will continue to suffer,” Flageolle said.

Clark’s civil rights lawsuit against Hanning and Idaho Springs continues to proceed in federal court.

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