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Former Colo. medic in Elijah McClain’s death seeks reduced sentence

Former Aurora Paramedic Peter Cichuniec was sentenced to the mandatory minimum of five years in prison


Paramedic Peter Cichuniec attends his arraignment at the Adams County Justice Center in Brighton, Colorado, on Jan. 20, 2023.

Andy Cross/The Denver Post/TNS

By Shelly Bradbury
The Denver Post

DENVER — The former Aurora paramedic who was sentenced to five years in prison in the death of Elijah McClain has asked a judge to reduce his prison time, court records show.

Peter Cichuniec, 51, was convicted of criminally negligent homicide and assault by drugging in the 2019 killing of Elijah McClain. The 23-year-old Black man died after Aurora police put him in a neck hold and an Aurora paramedic injected him with an overdose of the sedative ketamine. Cichuniec was supervising the paramedic who injected the drug.

Paramedic Peter Cichuniec was convicted of criminally negligent homicide and second-degree assault for giving a drug without consent or a legitimate medical purpose

In March, Adams County District Court Judge Mark Warner sentenced Cichuniec to five years in prison — the mandatory minimum prison time required under Colorado law — and he is imprisoned in Sterling Correctional Facility in northeast Colorado.

But because Cichuniec was sentenced under the state’s mandatory minimum laws, he is allowed to appeal the length of the sentence on the grounds that his case involves “unusual and exceptional” circumstances — and did so, court records show.

State law allows Warner to reduce the mandatory minimum prison sentence after Cichuniec spends at least 119 days in prison and after the Colorado Department of Corrections assesses Cichuniec’s risk level and reports back to the judge.

The Elijah McClain trial highlighted gaps in medical procedures that experts said must be addressed

Warner on Thursday ordered the Department of Corrections to provide that assessment in response to a “Motion to Modify and Reduce Sentence,” filed by Cichuniec, court records show. The motion itself was sealed from public view, a court clerk said.

Cichuniec is set for a hearing in Adams County District Court on Tuesday.

He was one of three first responders convicted in McClain’s death after five were arrested and tried. Former paramedic Jeremy Cooper and former Aurora police officer Randy Roedema were each convicted of criminally negligent homicide, and sentenced to 14 months of work release.

Roedema this month asked a judge to convert his work-release sentence, in which he is jailed on nights and weekends but allowed to leave for work, into home detention, citing unhealthy conditions in the jail.

Two other Aurora police officers, Jason Rosenblatt and Nathan Woodyard, were acquitted by juries of all criminal charges in McClain’s death.

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Regardless of pushback, providers have a responsibility to put the safety of the patient above all else when on scene