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Judge testifies in Nozolino case

January 28, 2014 Updated: January 28, 2014 at 9:03 pm
photo - Bruce J. Nozolino
Bruce J. Nozolino 

After dismissing a string of "frivolous" court filings in a bitter divorce, El Paso County's top-ranking judge delivered what he called a "drastic" message to Bruce J. Nozolino, ordering him to pay a portion of his ex-wife's legal fees.

A day later, Judge Gilbert Martinez received what he took for Nozolino's answer: two bullets fired into the judge's Briargate home.

One of the rounds came so close he felt it pass his face, Martinez said Tuesday in testifying against Nozolino, who is on trial in a 2008 slaying in Colorado Springs and three earlier shootings prosecutors tie to his contentious divorce.

Martinez - the chief judge of the 4th Judicial District - told the jury how he yelled upstairs for his wife and daughter to take cover as he grabbed a baseball bat and posted himself at his back door, prepared to take a swing at any intruder.

After talking with police, Martinez sat for hours in his family room with his wife, Joanie. Too fearful to turn on the lights, they sat in the dark and listened to glass drop from a shattered pane.

"I was in a different mode," he said of the Oct. 13, 2001, attack. "The adrenaline was pumping."

Martinez, his wife, and his daughter each recounted their memories of the attack as prosecutors continued building their case against Nozolino, a Colorado Springs anti-tax activist and former Lockheed Martin software engineer.

Although Martinez didn't get a look at the shooter, he told Colorado Springs police that he suspected Nozolino was involved.

One day earlier, at a divorce hearing in 4th Judicial District Court, Martinez approved a request by Beverly Nozolino's attorney to have Nozolino's wages garnished to recover $10,500 the judge ordered him to pay her from his retirement account.

He also ruled that Nozolino should be on the hook for part of her legal fees because of what seemed like an unending string of motions by Nozolino, all alleging wrongdoing for which Nozolino could offer no supporting evidence, Martinez said.

"He was just doing it, for lack of a better term, to get the other side's goat," Martinez said, describing the motions as "frivolous," "vexatious," and without basis in law.

Rancor over court policies appeared to turn personal, with Nozolino directing an obscene tirade against Martinez's clerk and paying an unusual visit to the judge's chambers in which Nozolino walked through a reception area and into Martinez's private office.

Instructed to leave at once, Nozolino "smirked, smiled and walked away," he said.

After the shooting, Martinez said he drafted an order recusing himself from the Nozolino divorce, concluding it wouldn't be appropriate for him to preside over the case of a man he had identified as a suspect in the shooting into his home.

In 2005, Martinez circulated a photo of Nozolino through the courthouse and issued an order that he be escorted by courthouse security wherever he needed to go.

Earlier Tuesday, a former Colorado Bureau of Investigations firearms expert testified that three metal shards recovered after a June 2001 shooting into a divorce lawyer's Palmer Lake home appeared to be consistent with bullet fragments.

The expert, Alan Hammond, testified that testing was completed before the evidence was destroyed by the El Paso County Sheriff's Office in 2008, as part of a regular evidence purge.

Also testifying on Tuesday was Gregory Garland, a former Colorado Springs deputy city attorney who befriended Nozolino in the late 1990s after striking up a conversation with him and discovering a shared passion for target shooting.

Garland said the men regularly attended shooting competitions together, where Nozolino distinguished himself as a "remarkable shot and a remarkable competitor," he told jurors.

At one contest, Garland said he saw Nozolino hit a string of bullseyes on a six-inch target from 300 yards using only the iron sights on his rifle.

Although he enjoyed Nozolino's company, Garland said their friendship waned as Nozolino grew increasingly focused on his pending divorce.

When Garland was diagnosed with cancer, he stopped going to shooting competitions and didn't see Nozolino again, he said.

"He had his chickens to fry, so to speak, and I had mine."

Testimony is expected to continue at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday.

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