22 August 2008

Gary Wall Case Update

I previously noted that Routt Count, Colorado (home to Steamboat Springs) Sheriff Gary Wall, a Democrat, was facing DUI charges and putting up an unprecedented defense effort. The Steamboat Pilot has collected their stories on the case at their website. Routt County has about 20,000 permanent residents, but like most resort communities in Colorado, has a far larger population during ski season.

A July 17, 2008 report stated that, after three days of trial and jury deliberations that:

Routt County Sheriff Gary Wall was found guilty of driving while ability impaired, failure to dim his headlights and prohibited use of a weapon Wednesday in Routt County Court, where a six-member jury rendered its verdict after a three-day trial.

DWAI is a lesser charge than driving under the influence of alcohol, a charge Wall faced after an incident Oct. 27, 2007, when a Colorado State Patrol trooper pulled Wall over at U.S. Highway 40 and Walton Creek Road for failure to dim his headlights. The sheriff was subsequently charged with that traffic violation, the weapons violation and suspicion of DUI. It is against the law to be in possession of a firearm while under the influence of alcohol.

For the DWAI conviction, Wall faces maximum penalties of up to 180 days imprisonment, a fine of up to $500 and as many as 48 hours of community service, according to state law.

Had Wall been convicted of DUI, he would have faced a one-year suspension of his driver’s license — on top of the yearlong revocation he received for refusing any tests of his blood alcohol level that night. He also would have faced penalties of up to a year imprisonment, a fine of up to $1,000 and as many as 96 hours of community service. . . .

The DWAI and failure to dim headlights convictions are traffic misdemeanors. Failure to dim carries a maximum fine of up to $100. The prohibited use of a weapon conviction is a Class 2 misdemeanor and carries maximum penalties of 18 months imprisonment, $5,000, or both.

A hearing to determine Wall’s penalties has not been set. Williams said he wants Wall to complete an alcohol evaluation before that hearing.

Asked whether he would appeal or take any other action in the wake of Wednesday’s verdict, Wall said “I’m going to have some things to say” and “I have some issues that we’re going to address.”

He said he is not considering resignation.

“Absolutely not. There’s no chance of that happening,” Wall said. “As a matter of fact, the chances are, if my health is good, I’m going to run for re-election to continue what I’ve accomplished.”

Wall was elected to a four-year term in November 2006.

Days after the traffic stop in October 2007, a state official said Wall’s citations would not hinder the sheriff’s peace officer certification, which then was pending.

John Kammerzell, director of the state’s Peace Officer Standards and Training Board, said only felonies and a few select misdemeanors can jeopardize an officer’s POST certification. Wall cannot be removed from office except through a recall election.

I haven't found any source indicating when sentencing will take place. A little more than a month has elapsed since the trial, and misdemeanor cases are generally placed on quicker dockets than felony cases, although, of course, this case is special because it involves a sitting county sheriff.

I am surprised that it is so hard to revoke an officer's POST certification.

Wall claimed that he "drank only one glass of red wine at the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association centennial celebration he was returning home from that night," but refused to answer questions from the law enforcement officers on the scene, and refused to take a blood alcohol test. Wall claimed he thought that law enforcement officers were trying to frame him. While these are good lessons for someone trying to mitigate their losses when facing a DUI charge, they don't speak well of Wall's respect for the integrity of law enforcement or his own integrity.

Wall's driver's license was revoked for a year because he refused to submit to a Breathalyzer test, an administrative decision upheld on administrative appeal.

A Routt County deputy who testified against his boss at the trial felt compelled to resign from his job afterwards.

As in independent elected official, a sheriff in Colorado has great control over his office, but must receive budget authority from the elected county commissioners, who have feuded with Wall, and cannot prosecute cases without the concurrence of the elected district attorney. One source of tension has been his vocal opposition to the war on drugs.

In periods where the sheriff is incapacitated or unable to act, the county coroner serves as acting sheriff in Colorado.

1 comment:

Old Bogus said...

How can a sheriff with no DL function in a rural county?