Sheriff: County should pay deputy's legal fees

Defense of minor traffic violation expected to exceed $2,000

Saying he doesn't feel law enforcement "needs to be treated differently" yet not "held to a higher standard," Sheriff Buddy Grinstead said Thursday Moffat County should pay legal expenses for a deputy charged in a traffic accident that left a Craig man and his daughter injured.

Grinstead -- at Wednesday's scheduled county commissioners meeting -- will request that Moffat County Attorney Kathleen Taylor, or a hired outside attorney represent Deputy Cortland Folks at his upcoming trial.

St. Paul Fire & Marine, the county's insurer, already has agreed to pay up to $2,000 for Folks' legal defense, officials said Thursday.

Grinstead said costs should easily exceed that amount.

"It's important for county employees to know we're doing everything in their best interest to protect them, whether they are at fault or not," the sheriff said. "They need to know we're in their corner."

Beyond that, Grinstead suggested the county's long-term legal interests would be served.

"If there's any pending civil litigation, the criminal case has a direct effect on that," he said.

Commissioner Darryl Steele declined to comment on Grinstead's request.

Folks -- who faces a minor traffic infraction charge of failure to obey a traffic control devise -- is scheduled for trial at 8:30 a.m. June 18 in Moffat County Court before Judge Mary Lynne James.

The deputy has pleaded not guilty to the charge. A conviction carries penalties of $56 in fines and surcharges, plus four points on a drivers license.

The accident occurred the morning of Feb. 7 at the intersection of West Victory Way and State Highway 13.

Folks -- who was northbound on state Highway 13 and responding to an emergency call with lights and sirens activated -- drove into the intersection under a red light, and was struck broadside by a truck driven by 39-year-old Tony Maneotis.

The Craig man, who was eastbound driving his 13-year-old daughter to school that morning, approached the intersection under a green light.

The District Attorney's office filed no charges against Maneotis, who suffered back and neck injuries in the accident.

But Grinstead -- who wouldn't comment on an internal review of the accident -- said he believes fault lies on both sides.

"It was one of those unfortunate incidents that happen and I'm relieved no one was killed," he said.

Paul Shockley can be reached at 824-7031 or at pshockley@craigdailypress.com.

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