Colorado law: Banjos be deadly

Everyone knows that banjos are awesome. But are they also deadly? According to Colorado law, that depends on how you use them.

If you use your banjo for, say, pickin', you're all good. If you use it for hittin', such as in the case of 33-year-old Joseph Stancato, you're not.

Stancato, of Denver, hit another man upside the head with his banjo on New Year's Eve after getting into a fight with the man and the man's friend at an Aspen bus stop. He was charged with assault and, according to a widely circulated Associated Press story that tells of a judge's ruling allowing Stancato to tour with his band while awaiting his next court date, he could face prison time because a banjo is considered a "deadly weapon" under Colorado law.

We here at Westword wanted more proof of that fact, so we e-mailed the Aspen police to ask about the law.

Community relations Officer Stephanie Dasaro quoted it for us.

Under Colorado Revised Statutes, a "deadly weapon" is defined as any of the following which in the manner it is used or intended to be used is capable of producing death or serious bodily injury: I) firearm, loaded or unloaded, II) knife, III) a bludgeon; or IV) any other weapon, device, instrument, material, or substance.

See? It says the word instrument. And that's too bad for Stancato.

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Melanie Asmar is a staff writer for Westword. She joined the paper in 2009 and has won awards for her stories about education, immigration and epic legal battles. Got a tip? She'd love to hear it.
Contact: Melanie Asmar