Former NFL defensive lineman Justin Bannan was sentenced Thursday to 16 years in state prison after shooting a Colorado woman in a bizarre 2019 incident.
Bannan, 42, was found guilty in September of attempted murder and first-degree assault, among other charges stemming from the shooting in Boulder, Colorado, on Oct. 16, 2019. He told police that he was hiding from the Russian mafia when he entered an acupuncturist’s treatment room, then shot her when she opened the door.
Bannan was facing up to 48 years in prison under Colorado law. The probation department sought a sentence of 32 years, and prosecutors requested 26.
The victim, Ashley Marie, asked that Bannan receive the minimum mandatory sentence of 16 years, which is what he ultimately received.
“I strongly believe in forgiveness, rehabilitation, and restorative justice,” Marie said in a statement read at the sentencing hearing by her attorney, Stewart Cables.
“While Mr. Bannan’s actions have caused me deep and long-term damages, I do not believe he targeted me personally and I believe his judgment was severely hindered by drugs, alcohol and a myriad of football injuries.”
Bannan played for five teams over the course of his 12-year NFL career, including the Baltimore Ravens and Denver Broncos. At trial, he pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, citing the effects of head injuries from his NFL career, among other things.
Prosecutors, meanwhile, argued that Bannan was voluntarily intoxicated at the time of the shooting – and that his abuse of illicit drugs and prescription stimulants led to the paranoia he experienced that day.
“His experience as a football player was neither the reason he shot the victim, nor a reason for him to evade responsibility,” Boulder County deputy district attorney Adrian Van Nice said in a statement after Bannan’s sentencing.
“As noted by the judge in court, the defendant still fails to accept full responsibility for his drug abuse leading to the attempted murder of the victim in this case.”
Bannan’s lawyer, Harvey Steinberg, told USA TODAY Sports in a phone interview that he found it “totally inappropriate” for Van Nice’s team to seek a 26-year sentence. He also commended Marie for understanding that “the way to heal is forgive.”
“He feels tremendous remorse for what occurred,” Steinberg said. “He accepts responsibility. And (he) knew that under Colorado law, he had to face a minimum of 16 years.”
Steinberg also said he will file an appeal of Bannan’s verdict within the next month.
“I think that if we prevail on the appeal, then certain matters we felt should have been introduced to the jury, that were excluded, may well make a difference,” he said.
The 2019 shooting occurred at a Boulder warehouse that served as an office space for several companies, including Black Lab Sports, which Bannan co-founded after retiring from the NFL. Marie was working as an acupuncturist for a different company in the same building.
She told USA TODAY Sports in an interview last year that she was arriving for work on the day of the shooting when she saw Bannan crouched in the corner of her treatment room with a handgun. Marie said Bannan shot her as soon as she opened the door. The bullet pierced her shoulder and fractured her humerus bone.
A former college basketball player at Colorado State, Marie has since filed a civil lawsuit against Bannan. That lawsuit is pending.
“Every time I have to open an unknown door, I’m thinking twice,” Marie told USA TODAY Sports last year. “And then actually stepping out of the way – just to make sure there’s not a bullet coming my way.”
Bannan’s sentencing hearing was originally scheduled for Nov. 5 but delayed multiple times, most recently because of COVID-19 issues. His lawyers requested one postponement after a member of his legal team tested positive for COVID-19, then a second postponement after Bannan himself tested positive in jail.
Bannan expressed remorse at the hearing before being transported to prison, apologizing to both Marie and the community of Boulder, where he starred at the University of Colorado before entering the NFL.
“Words cant begin to describe how sorry I am to Dr. Marie for all the pain and trauma I caused her,” Bannan said, according to The Boulder Daily Camera. “I’m gong to do everything I can to make things right, whatever that looks like.”
Contact Tom Schad at [email protected] or on Twitter @Tom_Schad.