Routt County Sheriff Gary Wall heads toward a courtroom Tuesday at the Routt County Courthouse to attend a hearing regarding the revocation of his driver's license. The revocation was upheld.

Photo by Matt Stensland

Routt County Sheriff Gary Wall heads toward a courtroom Tuesday at the Routt County Courthouse to attend a hearing regarding the revocation of his driver's license. The revocation was upheld.

Judge denies Wall appeal

Sheriff will fight DUI charges in jury trial

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— Senior Judge Cecil Wayne Williams upheld the revocation of Sheriff Gary Wall's driver's license in Routt County Court on Tuesday, and a jury trial has been set for the drunken driving case against the county's top law enforcement officer.

Williams made short order of Wall's appeal of a yearlong suspension of his driver's license, which was handed down by the Colorado State Patrol on Oct. 27, 2007, when Wall refused any tests of his blood alcohol level during a traffic stop. Colorado Department of Revenue Hearing Officer Art Julian upheld that decision on appeal in December. Wall and his lawyer, Steamboat Springs attorney Ron Smith, then appealed Julian's decision.

"I don't need to hear any argument in this case," said Williams, who in a previous hearing suggested he would hear arguments from the prosecution and defense. "I am affirming the decision of the hearing officer in this case and denying the petitioner. : This case is done as far as this court is concerned."

Attention then turned to Wall's criminal charges: failure to dim his headlights, driving under the influence of alcohol and possession of a weapon under the influence of alcohol. Smith entered a plea of innocent on behalf of Wall and requested the scheduling of a jury trial.

The case must be tried by Oct. 29. Williams set the trial for 8:30 a.m. July 14. A motions hearing will be held at 11 a.m. June 9.

"I'm going to set it earlier in case we have trouble finding a jury in this fine county," Williams said.

For the same reason, Williams will allow each side two hours to select a jury.

"Of course it's going to be longer than normal," said prosecutor Anne Francis, noting the uniqueness of a DUI case involving a prominent figure in the community. Francis, a deputy district attorney in Eagle County, appeared on behalf of special prosecutor Karen Romeo.

Also notable for a DUI case, the trial is scheduled for three days, and Smith said he would be calling about 25 witnesses. There will be an alternate juror, and Smith asked that the jury be sequestered.

Wall, who was dressed in khakis, tie and jacket and appeared upbeat before the proceedings, did not say anything during the trial.

To limit judicial interference in the actions of other branches of government, Colorado state statute puts stringent requirements on what may and may not be considered by a judge in the type of judicial review Williams ruled on Tuesday.

"The hearing officer is the trier of fact, makes the determination of credibility and resolves an issue based upon conflicting evidence," Williams wrote in his order. "Such finding is binding on this court."

Similar language is used throughout Williams' order, which limits its conclusions to determinations of whether "the department exceeded its constitutional or statutory authority, made an erroneous interpretation of the law, acted in an arbitrary or capricious manner, or made a determination which is unsupported by the evidence in the record."

Williams ruled against all five of the arguments relied upon by Wall's appeal, including claims that state troopers did not have probable cause to pull over Wall or arrest him, that a conspiracy existed among area law enforcement officers to frame him and that Julian's denial of a request to subpoena Sheriff's Office Deputy Lance Eldridge was arbitrary and capricious.

Eldridge was called to the scene of Wall's traffic stop to drive Wall and Wall's fiancee, (then girlfriend) Jenny Wilson, home.

In his petition for judicial review, Smith wrote that Eldridge's testimony was crucial to his claim that the strong odor of alcohol troopers observed was emanating from Wilson, not Wall. Eldridge reportedly spoke to Wilson while Wall was in Trooper Brett Hilling's vehicle and smelled a strong odor of alcohol coming from the car in Wall's absence.

The couple was returning from a Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association celebration at Sidney Peak Ranch.

The Routt County Sheriff's Office launched an internal affairs investigation into the charges against Wall immediately after his arrest. Six months later, the investigation being conducted by Sheriff's Office investigators Ken Klinger and Mike Curzon and Sgt. Miles De Young is not complete.

"I was told that whenever it was finished, it would be given to me, and I haven't seen it yet," Undersheriff David Bustos said Tuesday. "So all I can assume is that it hasn't been finished."

Phone messages left for Klinger and Curzon on Tuesday were not returned.

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