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Sopiwnik gets 12 years for Dunton sex assaults

Former Dunton Hot Springs chef took 140 photos of assaults

Daniel Sopiwnik was sentenced to 12 years to life in prison Friday in Dolores Combined Court after he was convicted of three sexual assaults in an October trial.

A 13-member jury found Sopiwnik, 32, guilty of sexually assaulting an 18-year-old woman three times in July 2015, while the two were working at Dunton Hot Springs resort. He also took more than 140 photos and two videos of the assaults, which the woman discovered on his phone.

District Court Judge Todd Plewe issued a sentence of six years to life on the first count. On the second count, the sentence was four years to life, and the third count carried a sentence of two years to life. Sopiwnik will be eligible for parole after three years, and he will serve the sentences consecutively. Plewe gave him credit for 72 days served in the Montezuma County Jail.

The judge said Sopiwnik showed a predatory nature, including a “monthlong, calculated manipulation” of the victim. He said Sopiwnik was dangerous, even though many people said he was a charming person.

“That’s not why you’re here,” Plewe said. “You’re here because you’re also manipulative.”

Sopiwnik’s charming nature helped him manipulate the victim, the judge said.

Sopiwnik worked as a chef at Dunton Hot Springs while the woman was a front-of-house worker, and they were in an intimate relationship at the time, according to trial testimony. Dunton Hot Springs is a destination resort of cabins set in a former ghost town in the San Juan National Forest, about 35 miles northeast of Dolores.

The sentence was indeterminate, meaning that the minimum time Sopiwnik will serve will be 12 years. After that minimum sentence is served, a parole board will determine whether he could be released on parole. If denied, Sopiwnik’s case would be up for review by the board at least once every three years.

Before Plewe issued the sentence, prosecuting attorney Sheena Goldsborough read a written statement from the victim to the court. In the statement, the victim said she suffered from anxiety and panic attacks after the assaults, and she had not been able to hold a job as a result. She said she would be affected by the assaults for the rest of her life.

“No one deserves to feel this way,” she said in the statement.

Sopiwnik’s attorney, Ingrid Alt, said a probation sentence for her client was more appropriate, saying he had the “resources, wherewithal and grit” to succeed while on probation.

She also called into question a doctor’s psychosexual evaluation of Sopiwnik, which she said wrongly identified him as a high risk for recidivism.

“That’s dangerous when your honor is asked to make a decision practically between life and death,” she told Plewe.

She said Sopiwnik should have been identified as a moderate or low risk for recidivism. She added that incarceration often increases the likelihood of recidivism.

Alt said though her client wasn’t perfect, he had the resources and determination to prosper outside of jail.

“He’s asking for that chance,” Alt said.

District Attorney Will Furse commended the victim for speaking up and going to police. He said the defendant had not admitted any wrongdoing during the trial, which made him unfit for rehabilitation such as probation.

“The best way of preventing future behavior is looking at past behavior,” Furse said. “We have no reason to believe the defendant’s behavior would stop.”

Plewe said Sopiwnik’s testimony during the trial was surprising, inconsistent with presented evidence and “completely unbelievable.” The large age difference between Sopiwnik and his victim also was troubling, he said.

“That shows a predatory nature and that you’re a dangerous person,” Plewe told Sopiwnik.


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