Judge recuses herself from deputy's traffic case

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Judge Mary Lynne James has recused herself from a case involving a Moffat County Sheriff's deputy who was issued a citation in April for failure to obey a traffic control device that resulted in a traffic accident.

Courtland Folks was issued the citation after he drove through a red light on his way to an accident scene and was struck by a truck driven by Tony Maneotis, 39. Maneotis' 13-year-old daughter was in the truck and was injured in the accident.

Folks' emergency lights were engaged.

Folks pleaded not guilty to the traffic infraction and continues to await a trial.

He was scheduled to appear in District Court Wednesday to set the date for that trial, but James' decision led to the postponement of that decision.

When informally asked to consider changing the trial venue because of pre-trial publicity, James said she did not have enough cause to change venue but that there was enough cause to recuse herself, according to the court file.

James said she has social relationships that create the potential appearance of a conflict of interest.

"Whenever it's raised, I just say OK," she said.

James said in a small town there are many opportunities for relationships to overlap, but in many cases prosecuting and defense attorneys don't see it as a problem.

Not so in this case.

"They (the attorneys) were just more comfortable having a stranger do it," she said.

James H. Garrect has agreed to take the case and has set a status conference for July 1 via telephone.

It has not yet been decided whether the trial will be held in Steamboat Springs or in Craig.

Folks is being represented by attorney Charles Feldmann.

A conviction for the offense carries $56 in fines, four points on a driver's license and court costs.

"There's no question Folks was acting within the scope of his employment," Sheriff Buddy Grinstead said.

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