2 plead guilty to DUI, avoid car theft charge

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Two South Routt brothers, arrested last week on suspicion of stealing a truck in Texas, pleaded guilty Wednesday to driving under the influence of alcohol and theft of camping gear.

Felony charges for motor vehicle theft weren't filed against the brothers.

Ronnie Johnson, 22, of Oak Creek, and Michael Johnson, 24, of Toponas, will be sentenced Oct. 8.

Assistant District Attorney Kerry St. James said it would have been difficult to prove the brothers stole the pickup. "It is not worth the taxpayers' expense to pursue that charge," he told Routt County Court Judge James Garrecht.

On Sept. 10, the two brothers were arrested on suspicion of vehicular theft and DUI after getting a pickup stuck in the mud on the side of Colorado Highway 131. The day before, the Colorado State Patrol was looking for the same truck -- a 1999 Chevrolet extended cab -- reported stolen by a Texas woman.

Stephanie Pautard, of Palestine, Texas, said the truck was stolen Aug. 24. Colorado State Patrolman Brett Hilling, who arrested the Johnson brothers, said they were riding in the truck when it was pulled over for speeding in Texas on Aug. 24. Pautard, whose husband owns the truck, was taken into custody because a warrant was out for her arrest for writing bad checks.

The Texas State Patrol drove the vehicle to the jail, but when they arrived, Pautard said, she instructed the brothers to drive the vehicle from the jail to her house.

Instead, the brothers allegedly drove the truck from Texas to Oak Creek. They were arrested when they reportedly got the truck stuck in the mud on the side of Colo. 131 when attempting to do a U-turn. Hilling said the two took turns trying to get the truck out of the mud and both were intoxicated.

St. James said he could not pursue charges of motor vehicle theft because of the relative weakness in Pautard's statement. He said questions were raised about Pautard's implied consent for the brothers to take the truck back to her home.

He said the case could be tried in Texas.

The District Attorney's Office dismissed Ronnie Johnson's charges of DUI per se and driving with a revoked license. Charges of DUI per se and having no proof of insurance for the vehicle against Michael Johnson were dropped.

The Johnson brothers did plead guilty to theft of camping gear. The brothers and Heather Fletcher, 19, of Palestine, were accused of taking $350 worth of gear, including tents, sleeping bags and chairs, from a hunting camp in the King Creek Bureau of Land Manage-ment Area in South Routt.

Since Sept. 10, the Johnson brothers have been in the Routt County Jail, each on $20,000 bond. On Wednesday, the bail was dropped to $750 for each of the charges.

-- To reach Christine Metz call 871-4229

or e-mail cmetz@steamboatpilot.com

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