| Crime |

CTE Could Be Part of Ex-Bronco's Insanity Defense for Bizarre Shooting

Justin Bannan appeared for his August 6 plea hearing remotely.
Justin Bannan appeared for his August 6 plea hearing remotely.
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On August 6, Justin Bannan, a former CU Buffs and Denver Broncos football player, pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity in the October 2019 shooting of Ashley Marie at Black Lab Sports in Boulder — a crime that took place under bizarre circumstances. And afterward, Bannan claimed that he was being chased by members of the Russian mafia.

In court, Springer & Steinberg defense counsel Harvey Steinberg, the lawyer of choice for Broncos in trouble, past and present, didn't specifically mention Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, a condition associated with concussions and repeated blows to the head, and for good reason: To date, definitive CTE diagnoses can only be confirmed postmortem. But following his arrest, Bannan reportedly told officers that he suffers from hydrocephalus, defined by the Alzheimer's Association as "a brain disorder in which excess cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) accumulates in the brain's ventricles, causing thinking and reasoning problems, difficulty walking, and loss of bladder control."

Should the insanity plea turn on CTE, attorney Marc Harden, who represents Marie in a civil suit against Bannan, believes it may be a first for American jurisprudence. But he says that it would also likely lead to further pain and suffering for his client, an innocent victim who was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time and continues to experience the effects of her injury nearly a year later.

"Ashley was shot unexpectedly, so there are the serious physical consequences associated with being shot with a bullet that goes through your arm, fractures your humerus and exits out the backside of your shoulder," Harden says. "She's an acupuncturist, so she uses her body as part of her living, and she's a mother. It's been traumatic, physically and emotionally, as you can imagine." Marie has only recently been able to return to work on what he describes as "a very limited basis," and in the meantime, "she's got tens of thousands of dollars in medical expenses piling up."

Ashley Marie recently returned to work on a limited basis following her shooting last year.
Ashley Marie recently returned to work on a limited basis following her shooting last year.

These costs and more are at the heart of Marie's lawsuit against Bannan, which is technically separate from the criminal prosecution but has become entwined with it because the ex-player's civil attorneys, Kevin D. Ripplinger and Brian D. Patterson of Greenwood Village-based Patterson Ripplinger, P.C., have filed a request to stay the complaint until after the other case has concluded.

Harden suggests that taking the better part of a year for Bannan to even enter a plea has been extremely problematic for Marie — and he thinks asking her to wait for what could be years while a potentially groundbreaking case works its way through the system before her suit can even be heard is outrageous.

"Every day the criminal process drags on is another day that, according to Bannan, the civil case can't proceed," Harden maintains. "Ultimately, Ashley's the one who was shot and injured and affected. So it's very frustrating that these delay tactics have been utilized."

As a result, Harden adds, "we're going to file a response objecting to the stay and hope the court will allow our civil claims to continue no matter the delays in Mr. Bannan's complicated civil case."

More immediately, as reported by Fox31, Bannan has been ordered to visit the state hospital in Pueblo within thirty days to undergo a mental examination. Bannan, who's not currently in custody, will undergo the evaluation on an outpatient basis.

Ripplinger, Patterson and Steinberg have not responded to Westword requests for comment; click to read the Justin Bannan criminal complaint, Ashley Marie v. Justin Bannan, and the motion to stay the civil proceedings.

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