Thursday, February 9, 2006
Steamboat Springs Dan and Kim Bonner went into Rout County Court on Thursday morning prepared for a trial. So did the District Attorney's Office.
But shortly before the trial was slated to begin, the Bonners and Deputy District Attorney Tammy Jenson reached a plea agreement in a case involving a failed alcohol compliance check in September at Go-Fer Foods, the store owned by the Bonners.
Instead of going to trial, Dan Bonner pleaded guilty to selling alcohol to a minor, a Class 1 misdemeanor. In exchange for the guilty plea, Jenson offered Bonner a 28-day deferred judgment, which means the charge will disappear from Dan Bonner's record in a month. Bonner also agreed to contribute $500 to the Grand Futures Prevention Coalition, a Routt County nonprofit organization that works to prevent substance abuse among teenagers.
The charges against Kim Bonner, Dan's wife, were dropped because she is not involved in the daily functions of the store. Kim Bonner was cited only because her name also appears on the business' liquor license.
"She never should have been involved in any of this," Dan Bonner said.
"(The district attorney's office) didn't want this to go to trial. I didn't want this to go to trial. Both sides were working very hard to find a middle ground -- we were both hung up on principle," he said.
The Bonners fought the charges and filed an initial plea of not guilty, causing the case to go to trial.
Bonner said his not guilty plea reflected his opinion that liquor license holders -- who often own the business -- should not be criminally cited when an employee sells alcohol to a minor.
Go-Fer Foods was one of nine Steamboat business that failed a September compliance check during which Steamboat police officers sent an undercover minor into 11 businesses to purchase alcohol. According to court documents, police cited all nine of the clerks who sold alcohol to the minor and all of the liquor license holders of the businesses where the sales took place.
Bonner said his employee denied selling alcohol to the minor.
The case against the employee was dismissed by a former deputy district attorney who was unavailable for comment.
In court Thursday, County Judge James Garrecht asked Jenson and Bonner whether an agreement could be reached instead of going to trial.
"It was a rather unique agreement. (Jenson) agreed to the deferred judgment to placate me, and to placate them, I agreed to make a contribution to (Grand Futures Prevention Coalition)," Bonner said.
Garrecht said he usually does not accept plea agreements on the day of a trial, but he accepted the agreement reached Thursday.
Bonner probably won't have to worry about being cited for selling alcohol to minor again. He said he has decided to "get out of the business" and will not sell alcohol at Go-Fer Foods.
Bonner said Go-Fer Foods has had "a few incidents" in which a store clerk was accused of selling alcohol to a minor, the latest in January 2005. Court records show that the cases against Bonner and the store clerk were dismissed.