Idaho lawyer sentenced for brandishing gun at construction site

‘If anyone in the world would understand the dangerousness of bringing a gun into a volatile situation after drinking, it should have been you,’ the judge said.

(TWIN FALLS) TIMES-NEWSSeptember 4, 2013 

A judge ordered a Twin Falls attorney to spend 10 days in county jail for illegally brandishing a firearm and disturbing the peace at a construction site.

Joseph Rockstahl is appealing his conviction and says he didn’t get a fair trial.

District Judge Mick Hodges sentenced Rockstahl to 180 days in jail for each of his misdemeanor charges and suspended all but 10 days. He also sentenced Rockstahl to two years of supervised probation.

At a May trial, the jury acquitted Rockstahl of a count of aiming a weapon at others.

According to police:

On July 2, 2012, Twin Falls police responded to a call about a man with a gun. Rockstahl told officers he and his wife were having a couple of drinks outside and were upset about the noise coming from a construction site two houses down the road. At about 9 p.m., Rockstahl said his wife, Patricia Rockstahl, walked down to complain about the noise and spoke with the three men working at the site. She later returned to the site to complain about the noise again.

In his statement to police, Rockstahl wrote that he heard yelling coming from the site. He grabbed a 9mm pistol, tucking it under his arm, because he believed he would be outnumbered by the construction workers. Rockstahl told police he pointed the gun at the ground but could not chamber a round in the gun because of surgery on his wrist.

At the trial, held May 23 and 24, the three workers testified that Patricia Rockstahl was yelling the second time she came to the site. Soon, the three said, Joseph Rockstahl arrived, displayed a gun and said, “Let’s get this gunfight started.”

Patricia and Joseph Rockstahl both testified that Patricia went to the scene to try to make a deal with the workers that they would finish their work earlier. Patricia Rockstahl said during her testimony that two of the workers were on either side of her and she was pushed at some point during the argument.

During the sentencing hearing Aug. 9, Rockstahl's attorney, Keith Roark, said many friends sent letters of support for Rockstahl. Roark emphasized that Rockstahl has helped many military members pro bono or at a reduced rate. “Whatever happened on that night shouldn’t eclipse the life of a man who has used his life to help others,” he said.

Rockstahl said he believes he didn’t get a fair trial but apologized to the judge for making accusations that he was biased. He maintained that he believes his wife was threatened.

“I’ve been reminded that I’m a soldier,” he said. “I reacted the way I was taught. I got my wife out of the situation. No one else involved was injured.”

Hodges said the attorney, who has legal knowledge and firearms training, chose to carry a gun after he’d been drinking. “I acknowledge your clean record and many accomplishments, but I can’t ignore your absolute absence of remorse.”

Rockstahl will have to pay $1,202.50 in fines and court costs. Hodges also ordered Rockstahl to pay any restitution in the case, including possible counseling for the victims.

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alismith@magicvalley.com

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