Mike Lawrence: Apricots and asparagus

Stolen produce kick-starts race for county sheriff

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People interested in the race for county sheriff couldn't have asked for a sweeter pea.

A week after two men were sentenced to six months in jail for stealing $15 worth of fruit and vegetables from Sweet Pea Produce on Yampa Street, residents of Routt County are getting more than a juicy story - they are getting a look at two paths county law enforcement could take in the very near future.

Gary Wall, a local private investigator and former Vail police chief, is the Democratic candidate for Routt County sheriff. The Republican candidate is Steamboat Springs police officer Garrett Wiggins, a member of the Greater Routt and Moffat Narcotics Enforcement Team and a former deputy in the county Sheriff's Office.

Wiggins defeated Sheriff's Office Sgt. Ray Birch in a Republican primary last month. Since then, news from the Wall-Wiggins front had been relatively quiet.

The vacation ended Monday.

When Wall called the now-infamous Sweet Pea Incident "outrageous," "embarrassing" and an "abuse of prosecutorial discretion," you could almost hear the upcoming campaign speeches.

As a liberal candidate vying for a traditionally conservative position, Wall is running on a campaign of change. He has told the Steamboat Pilot & Today that if elected, he will "do everything (he) can to make sure officers respect the civil rights and liberties of our citizens." The statement implies that, in his mind, such respect is not the norm today.

That sentiment can be hard to clarify.

In previous campaign speeches, Wall often talked about how the door to his office always would be open, or about how, under his leadership, all Sheriff's Office vehicles would be equipped with tow hitches to pull stranded citizens out of the snow, free of charge. Rarely did he address specific cases or crimes.

But then Kerry St. James, an assistant district attorney who brokered the plea agreement for the two defendants, served Wall a stolen salad on a silver platter.

"This whole thing should be reconsidered," Wall said about the misdemeanor sentencing supported by District Attorney Bonnie Roesink.

On Tuesday, Roesink and St. James said no such reconsideration will occur. Evidence suggests that the two men entered the store illegally, they said, leading to the initial charge of felony burglary.

Wiggins said members of the public who are angry about the sentencing - which he said "does seem a little harsh" - should consider that evidence.

"People need to put a little bit of weight into the fact that these fellows did commit a crime," said Wiggins, who declined to comment further on the sentencing. "They were originally charged with a felony, and there may be other elements to this case."

Wiggins pointed out Tuesday that he has been involved in "active law enforcement" for the past 20 years. Wiggins began his second stint with the Steamboat Springs Police Department in 2003.

Wall finished his tenure as Vail police chief in 1979 and has since worked as a private investigator and restaurateur.

Over the next two months, Routt County residents will consider how much change, and what kind of leader, they want in the Sheriff's Office.

A bag of stolen produce provides an interesting barometer.

Comments

flipside 7 years, 11 months ago

What a worthless waste of space.

What were you trying to say?

A column like this should have a point, shouldn't it?

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Scott Wedel 7 years, 11 months ago

Amazing how an analysis and opinion can have so little of either and be amazingly soft.

From the column: "On Tuesday, Roesink and St. James said no such reconsideration will occur".

Which is exceptionally kind because on Tuesday Roesink and St. James were told by the storeo owner that there is no doubt that all that Siller and Clark took was pig food from a dumpster and that the initial police report was mistaken when it said that they had entered the locked store.

Given that additional information, none of Wiggins, Roesnik, Kerry St James or dept police captain Del Valle can recognize or accept that an injustice has occurred. In fact, Wiggins asserts there could be other factors which implies the store owner is now lying.

And Wiggins involvement in GRAMNET should be a big issue because of GRAMNET's raids on medical marijuana user Dan Nord, mass arrests for smoking marijuana on the gondola and so on. Was Wiggins asked about any of those busts?

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peabody85 7 years, 11 months ago

Wiggins comes from true police mentality. What the store owners wanted is irrelevant to him. Kerry stressed that what the owners said the night of the event was so important and yet when confronted by the store owner Kerry choose to TOTALLY reject his input. This view by Kerry is exactly the same in all cases. He injects his personal view and by doing so abuses his power. Thank GOD both he and Bonnie will be gone in two years assuming she lasts that long in Office.

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flipside 7 years, 11 months ago

God forbid we have Wiggins and Kerry in office together ...

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fish 7 years, 11 months ago

Nord deals, that is not true and I hope that the man sees this and sues you. Talk about making a slanderous statement in public. You have just given this man the keys to your home and everything else. You just can't keep yourself from running off at the mouth can you? Your cop husband should look into getting cuffs for your mouth before you get him in trouble again.

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fish 7 years, 11 months ago

Oh yeah, fall back on the feminist card. No I like strong smart women think that they are better than most men I know, you just aren't one.

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Dorothywhitehawk 7 years, 11 months ago

This is one that is going to be interesting to watch.

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easyglider 7 years, 11 months ago

379664, in your 2:50 post are you really trying to deny what you wrote in your in your 1:16 post? you make kerry st. james look like a paragon of integrity.

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