Backup punter faces charges

By Pat Graham The Associated Press

DENVER – Prosecutors filed a charge of attempted first-degree murder yesterday against a former University of Northern Colorado backup punter accused of stabbing the starter in his kicking leg in a case that drew comparisons to the Tonya Harding-Nancy Kerrigan rivalry.

Mitchell Cozad, 21, is accused of stabbing Rafael Mendoza on Sept. 11 outside Mendoza’s apartment.

Cozad, of Wheatland, Wyo., also faces one count of second-degree assault. Prosecutors said he could face up to 48 years in prison if convicted.

Weld County district attorney’s spokeswoman Jennifer Finch said a warrant was issued for Cozad’s arrest, and bail would be set at $500,000. She said he was not yet in custody, and she did not know where he was.

Cozad’s attorney, Joseph A. Gavaldon, did not immediately return a call. A man who answered Cozad’s mobile phone number hung up without commenting.

Mendoza was treated for a 3- to 5-inch deep puncture wound in his right thigh and released. He has returned to the team.