Patrick Trujillo, a Colorado man who allegedly fired a gun in downtown Moab in August, will now face federal penalties before U.S. District Court. The case was transferred on Sept. 26 from Moab’s 7th District Court to the federal system, where Trujillo faces one charge — a felon in possession of a firearm.
During a Sept. 28 arraignment, Trujillo pled not guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge Dustin Pead. He currently awaits a December jury trial in federal custody.
According to U.S. District Court representative Melodie Rydalch, Trujillo’s one charge could mean up to 10 years in federal prison.
“He has a previous felony conviction,” Rydalch said. “If you are a felon you cannot be in the possession of a firearm.”
On the night of Aug. 1, witnesses told police that Trujillo, 33, fired at least one shot in front of Zax Restaurant, located at 100 S. Main St., before entering the Club Rio bar, at 2 South 100 West.
When the officers entered Club Rio, witnesses in the bar indicated that Trujillo was “brandishing the weapon and threatening patrons,” according to a statement issued by the Moab City Police Department.
After refusing to exit Club Rio, county court documents allege that Trujillo became combative with the officers and removed a firearm from his waistband.
“The ... officers immediately attempted to subdue the subject and as they did the male fired a single round,” according to the department’s statement.
During the scuffle, the officers took Trujillo to the ground and attempted to secure the firearm. At one point, an officer placed his hand into the firing mechanism of the weapon to prevent the firing of any additional shots.
“Eventually the very aggressive subject was taken into custody by members of the Moab City Police Department, the Grand County Sheriff’s Office and the Utah Highway Patrol,” a news release stated.
Trujillo initially faced 11 charges — from second-degree felonies to a class-C misdemeanor — before Moab’s 7th District Court, totaling a possible four to 70 years in prison and up to three years in jail.
Although Grand County Attorney Andrew Fitzgerald said that Trujillo would have faced “significant incarceration” under the state system, federal partners could attain similar results in the U.S. District Court system.
“The federal charges have larger sentencing guidelines,” Fitzgerald said. “With the state you might need a whole bunch of charges to get to what’s just for the community. The federal charges, the penalties are significantly, significantly larger. You don’t need ten, all you need is one.”
Trujillo’s former felony conviction allows federal prosecutors a chance to try the case in the U.S. District Court system, according to Rydalch.
“[State] prosecutors will weigh whether or not a federal prosecution will be more effective in getting a longer prison sentence,” Rydalch said. “We’re aggressive regarding possession cases. They know to call us if there’s something we would be interested in.”
According to Fitzgerald, local law enforcement and federal agents exercised coordination on the Trujillo case.
“We keep a relationship with the federal government and the U.S. Attorney’s Office. They’re aware of violent crimes, those involving guns, and they’ll step in and take a case where there’s a significant level of violence,” Fitzgerald said. “Their penalties are significantly higher, which is also one of the reasons that they’ll come and get those more serious cases.”
Fitzgerald added the Moab community ultimately benefits from this partnership, noting that federal entities often have greater resources than the state when it comes to experts and funding.
“It’s good to have our federal government involved in assisting our law enforcement. It’s a good partnership and their assistance and expertise in certain areas is greatly welcomed,” Fitzgerald said. “Our community is better off and safer because they’re willing to help us out.”
Trujillo’s three-day jury trial is currently scheduled for Dec. 4 in U.S. District Court.