Garrett Wilder

Garrett Wilder

A Lake Havasu City man who was recently convicted in the 2020 shooting of a television personality’s son has now filed his case in the Arizona Court of Appeals. And according to Wilder’s attorney, his appeal could have a high chance of success.

Garrett Wilder, 23, remained in custody at Mohave County Jail on Tuesday as he awaited transportation to an Arizona prison facility. Mohave Superior Court Judge Billy Sipe sentenced Wilder to 10.5 years in prison last month, after his conviction on charges of drive-by shooting. A notice of appeal was filed with the state’s appellate court on Dec. 28.

Wilder was tried in late October on felony charges including aggravated assault, drive-by shooting and disorderly conduct with a weapon in the near-fatal shooting of California resident Garrett Dotson, 24. Dotson, who is the son of A&E Network’s “Storage Wars” personality Dan Dotson, suffered critical injuries after Wilder shot him from the window of his vehicle during an alleged altercation in September 2020.

The Case

Lake Havasu City first responders were called to the 2100 block of Injo Drive in the early hours of Sept. 13 after receiving reports of a shooting. Witnesses said that Dotson and an acquaintance, Mauro Owens, had been standing in front of a home Dotson had rented when a driver – later identified as Wilder, stopped in front of the location.

Dotson would later testify that Wilder attempted to antagonize Dotson and Owens, telling them to “go back where they came from.” According to Dotson’s statements to police, he and Owens approached Wilder to confront him, but never came near Wilder’s vehicle before the defendant shot Dotson from within.

The bullet struck Dotson’s abdomen, and Wilder left the scene before police and paramedics arrived at the location. Dotson was transported to Havasu Regional Medical Center, and later flown to a Las Vegas hospital in critical condition. Police solicited the Havasu community’s help in locating the shooter, before a witness reported Wilder’s involvement.

Lake Havasu City Police detectives served a search warrant at Wilder’s Winterhaven Drive address on Sept. 14, 2020, and took Wilder into custody at the scene. The weapon allegedly used in the shooting was found at his home, as was a single spent shell casing.

According to statements Wilder allegedly made to investigators, Dotson and Owens may have been involved in an altercation in front of the residence, and Wilder had offered assistance. According to police, Wilder said the two men approached his vehicle in an aggressive manner, and threatened him before allegedly attempting to assault him prior to the shooting.

Police said Wilder was unable to explain the lack of blood spatter on his vehicle that would indicate Dotson had been close to Wilder’s vehicle at the time of the shooting. But according to Deputy Mohave County Attorney Paul Amann, other evidence – including a possible Gucci shoeprint from Dotson, and a dent in the door of Wilder’s vehicle – supported Wilder’s statement to detectives.

Conviction was wrongful, according to jurors

According to Amann, evidence presented at Wilder’s trial led the majority of his jurors to believe his argument of self-defense was a likely one. But in court documents filed by Amann over the past two months, Amann says at least four of Wilder’s jurors reported they had been misled by the jury’s foreperson during their deliberations.

Amann says that 10 members of Wilder’s jury were prepared to acquit Wilder on all counts against him, which included charges of aggravated assault, disorderly conduct and drive-by shooting. According to Amann, the jury believed that Wilder acted in self-defense at the time of the shooting, based on evidence presented at his trial.

Later testimony from at least four of those jurors allegedly showed the jury’s forewoman convinced fellow jurors to convict Wilder on the charge of drive-by-shooting, based on the belief that Wilder had used his weapon irresponsibly. According to Amann, the jury’s forewoman told her fellow jurors that drive-by shooting would result in the least-severe sentence for Wilder.

The count of drive-by shooting was the most severe of the charges against him. The criminal penalty for drive-by shooting is a minimum of seven years in prison, under Arizona statute – compared to a minimum five-year sentence if he were convicted on charges of aggravated assault. According to post-trial testimony from jurors in Wilder’s case, they would not have convicted Wilder at all, had they not been misinformed. And according to Amann, Sipe ordered the jury’s members prior to deliberations not to take sentencing into account while rendering their verdict.

“The jury’s verdict of guilty on the drive-by shooting count was based not on the law, but on the foreperson’s misunderstanding of the law,” Amann said on Monday. “Since the jury found that Wilder acted in self-defense when he shot at Dotson and Owens, it should have been found that he acted in self-defense on the drive-by shooting count as well.”

Wilder is expected to argue that possible juror misconduct had taken place during the jury’s deliberations.

“The (forewoman’s) fellow jurors relied on her claims regarding the penalty for drive-by shooting,” Amann said. “They gave affidavits that they would not have voted to convict if they were aware that drive-by shooting carries the most significant penalty of the five counts with which Wilder was charged.”

What’s next for Wilder

Wilder is expected to begin his 10.5-year prison sentence, even as he awaits a decision from the Arizona Division 1 Court of Appeals. After a ruling is given, Wilder’s conviction may be remanded to Mohave Superior Court for reconsideration or possibly a new trial in the case.

“In the event that the case is remanded for a new trial on the drive-by shooting count, Wilder will likely be successful on appeal,” Amann said. “The jury did not believe Dotson’s and Owens’ testimony, and therefore acquitted Wilder on three counts of aggravated assault and the charge of disorderly conduct with a weapon.”

According to appellate court records, Mohave Superior Court will be required to provide the court of appeals with a transcript from Wilder’s trial by Feb. 3.

Amann says he will not personally represent Wilder in his appeal, as that task will be appointed to a separate appellate attorney.

If Wilder is granted a new trial, Amann says it will only be for the charge of drive-by shooting. Under Wilder’s constitutional Fifth Amendment rights, he may not be tried again for the counts of aggravated assault or disorderly conduct with a weapon in this case.

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