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Colorado judge suspended 30 days without pay for pointing AR-15-style rifle at stepson

District Court Judge Mark D. Thompson pleaded guilty in January to disorderly conduct for the July 25, 2021, incident, according to the Colorado Supreme Court.

A Colorado judge who pointed an AR-15-style rifle at his stepson last year was censured by the state’s Supreme Court and suspended for 30 days without pay — a rare case of public discipline for state judges.

District Court Judge Mark D. Thompson pleaded guilty in January to disorderly conduct, a Class 2 misdemeanor, for the July 25, 2021, incident at his home in Summit County, about 75 miles west of Denver.

The incident involved Thompson, his 22-year-old stepson and his stepson’s friend, according to the Colorado Supreme Court opinion released Monday.

In a synopsis, the court said Thompson and his stepson were involved in a “heated confrontation” that began when Thompson was walking his dog just after dark and a car sped toward him. Thompson then realized his stepson was riding in the car, driven by his friend, the synopsis said.

In a confrontation in the street and the driveway outside his home, Thompson stated that if his stepson’s friend drove too fast again, he would “put a .45 through his head,” the opinion said. Thompson denied making the statement.

Thompson said his stepson appeared drunk after he got out of the car and insisted on going into the home, despite Thompson's objections, the opinion said. Once he was inside, Thompson got the rifle out of a gun safe and pointed it at his stepson’s chest, it said. Thompson said the gun was not loaded; his stepson said Thompson told him it was loaded, the court said.

Thompson was sentenced to one year’s unsupervised probation, the opinion said, and ordered to seek anger management treatment.

The court said Thompson violated the state’s code of judicial conduct, including stipulations that judges shall comply with the law and “act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the ... judiciary, and shall avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety.”

The suspension will be served from Oct. 15 to Nov. 13, the opinion said.

Thompson could not immediately be reached for comment Tuesday.

Thompson resigned as a chief judge in the 5th Judicial District after the incident but continued serving as a judge. He is barred from presiding over criminal cases until his probation is complete, the opinion said.

The state Supreme Court opinion also said Thompson has taken responsibility for his actions through the plea in the criminal case and by working with the state’s Commission on Judicial Discipline and Public Censure.

The opinion said Thompson’s actions involving the shotgun were “part of a larger context of events that caused a significant emotional strain on Judge Thompson,” adding: “These contextual events included grief caused by death and illness in Judge Thompson’s family. They also included threats to Judge Thompson’s life that were related to his work as a judge."

The Denver Post reported that Thompson is one of only a half-dozen judges to have been publicly disciplined in Colorado since 2010 and that his censure comes as legislators are working to reform the judicial discipline system to make it more transparent and less controlled by the state Supreme Court.