Woman Shot by Ex-Bronco Still in Limbo Even After He Was Found Guilty

Ashley Marie's injuries complicated the birth of her child last week.
Ashley Marie's injuries complicated the birth of her child last week. Fox31 file photo
In late 2019, Boulder's Ashley Marie was shot by former Denver Bronco Justin Bannan during a bizarre incident in which he said he was being chased by members of the Russian mafia. The next year, Bannan pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, and his attorneys asked a judge to stay a civil complaint filed by Marie over the serious injuries she sustained until the criminal case against Bannan ended — a request that was granted.

This conclusion would seem to have been reached on September 10, when a jury found Bannan guilty of attempted first-degree murder/extreme indifference and several other charges. But no: The stay against the civil lawsuit remains in place, and could potentially last well beyond November 5, when Bannan is scheduled to be sentenced. And if Bannan decides to appeal the conviction, which could send him to jail for between sixteen and 48 years, the civil matter could be stuck in place for many months, perhaps even in excess of another year.

Attorney Marc Harden of Denver-based Zaner Harden Law, the civil attorney who represents Marie, fought against the original plea for a stay and is even more frustrated that his client remains in legal limbo today. "The bottom line is, we need to move this case forward for her damages," Harden says. "There's no basis for it continuing to be gummed up by a possible appeal."

Bannan, a defensive tackle, was a standout for the University of Colorado from 1998 to 2001, and his potential inspired the Buffalo Bills to draft him in the fifth round of the 2002 NFL draft. He spent four seasons with the Bills before moving to the Baltimore Ravens in 2006, the Broncos in 2010, the St. Louis Rams in 2011, and back to the Broncos again in 2012 before heading to the Detroit Lions, where he ended his career in 2013.

After hanging up his cleats, Bannan stayed connected with the Colorado sports scene through assorted media appearances. But his world changed at 2:24 p.m. on October 16, 2019, when members of the Boulder Police Department responded to Black Lab Sports, 3550 Frontier Avenue, on a report of a shooting.
click to enlarge A Justin Bannan team portrait during his stint with the Denver Broncos. - DENVERBRONCOS.COM
A Justin Bannan team portrait during his stint with the Denver Broncos.
Officers discovered a woman subsequently identified as Marie with what was described as a non-life-threatening wound to her arm. She was transported to a local hospital for treatment.

Bannan was arrested at the scene. According to his arrest affidavit, cops quickly tracked him down on the west side of the building. He had two guns in his backpack, as well as a $20 bill that tested positive for cocaine residue. En route to the police station, he reportedly told officers that "the Russian mafia is after me." But he also revealed that he suffered 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."

Many former football players have been diagnosed with brain maladies, most prominently Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, better known as CTE, that are associated with concussions and repeated blows to the head. Onetime CU Buffs are on the lengthening roster of CTE victims; Heisman Trophy winner Rahsaan Salaam committed suicide in a Boulder park in 2016. Salaam's brain wasn't tested for CTE after his death, but his family believes that it contributed to his fatal act.

Bannan didn't testify during his criminal trial, but his lawyer, Harvey Steinberg, made frequent mention of his brain injuries. These assertions didn't sway jurors, though.

Based on what he knows about the criminal trial, Harden doesn't see any obvious grounds for an appeal. "There's generally great deference for jury decisions," he says. "Appeals are usually granted over questions about whether the court made any errors. The court is the gatekeeper for what a jury can hear and what they're instructed on, and they might claim there are issues about what evidence the judge let in or if the jury was improperly instructed under the law."

But while an appeal remains a possibility, the judge in the civil case could decide to maintain the stay because a Bannan deposition might potentially jeopardize his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination.

Harden rejects this argument, however. "I don't think there's any mystery as to what happened," he says. "Bannan acknowledges what happened, and his lawyer didn't hide from the fact that he shot Ashley. So why are we holding this up? For the most part, all of the facts are out there."

Marie gave birth last week, and "is still dealing with her injuries. Unfortunately, her injuries were particularly painful when dealing with her recent pregnancy," Harden notes. "It's been over a year since the first motion was filed, and they got the stay they wanted. But now, it's time to move forward with the civil case."

Bannan's legal team isn't commenting about a possible appeal at this time; under Colorado law, a notice of appeal is typically due 49 days after a court's final order is signed.

Click to read the Justin Bannan criminal complaint from 2019 and Ashley Marie v. Justin Bannan.
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.
Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts