Wall sentenced to probation

Sheriff ordered to complete public service, alcohol therapy

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— Senior Judge Cecil Wayne Williams sentenced Routt County Sheriff Gary Wall on Wednesday to a year of unsupervised probation, 36 hours of community service and 12 hours of alcohol education and therapy. The judge also ruled the sheriff must pay fines and fees totaling $816.

The county's top law enforcement officer was convicted in a jury trial July 16 of driving while ability impaired, prohibited use of a weapon and failure to dim his headlights. Williams also ordered Wall to abstain from drinking alcohol for the duration of his yearlong probation. Based on the DWAI conviction and an alcohol evaluation, the court determined Wall was driving with a blood alcohol level between .05 and .08 when he was pulled over Oct. 27, 2007.

Williams also sentenced Wall to 60 days in jail but suspended that sentence in its entirety.

Special prosecutor Anne Francis - who argued during Wall's criminal trial that the case was not special and that jurors should treat Wall like any other person charged with drunk driving - said in Routt County Court on Wednesday that "further reflection shows this is an extraordinary case." Francis said Wall is a sworn law enforcement officer who betrayed the public's trust, and she noted that he committed the crimes in a county-owned vehicle.

"He must be held to a higher standard," Francis said.

Francis sought a 10-day, served jail sentence in addition to a typical DWAI sentence. Noting his client's previously clear record, Wall's attorney, Ron Smith, asked that the sheriff "be treated like every other person with a clear record." Smith also downplayed the significance of Wall's being in his county-owned vehicle, because Wall is on call at all times, as well as the weapons conviction, because Wall's gun was on the floor in the vehicle's backseat.

"There was no evidence that he was holding or brandishing the weapon," Smith said.

Wall declined to make any statement when Williams gave him that opportunity prior to announcing the sentence.

Williams said he gave his sentencing great thought and reviewed sentencing practices throughout the state, including those related to public figures such as professional athletes on the Denver Broncos football team.

"I've concluded I'm going to treat him like any other person," Williams said. "As far as I'm concerned, if he wants to be held up to a higher standard, that's up to the voters of Routt County."

Wall must complete his 36 hours of "useful public service" and alcohol education and therapy by April 15, 2009. In addition to abstaining from alcohol throughout his yearlong probation, Wall also must not commit any criminal crimes or traffic offenses more than four points. He must comply with all restrictions on his driver's license, which include a yearlong suspension of his driving privileges, set to expire in December. The Colorado Department of Revenue handed down that suspension because Wall refused any tests of his blood alcohol level the night of the traffic stop. Wall testified during the criminal trial that he made a mistake in doing so.

In reference to that testimony, Williams said, "I would tell the sheriff I'm disappointed with his actions in this case, but he knows that himself."

- To reach Brandon Gee, call 871-4210

or e-mail bgee@steamboatpilot.com

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