Steamboat Springs Routt County Sheriff Gary Wall reaffirmed his innocence to charges of drunken driving Monday but declined to provide any specifics about the Saturday night traffic stop that has sparked another controversy involving the county's top law enforcement officer.
Wall, who was cited by the Colorado State Patrol on Saturday for driving under the influence of alcohol, prohibitive use of a weapon and failing to dim his headlights, would not say whether he had anything to drink before heading home from the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association's 100th anniversary celebration at Sidney Peak Ranch.
"I have said I didn't drink anything in excess that would have affected my ability to drive," Wall said Monday while returning to Steamboat Springs from Denver. "I certainly was not intoxicated."
Wall also said he did not take a sobriety test during the traffic stop, but he wouldn't say whether it was because he refused to do so.
State Patrol Capt. Brett Williams would not discuss the specifics of Wall's traffic stop, but he said troopers would have requested a roadside sobriety test under standard procedure.
"If there's suspicion of intoxication, then they would ask for a roadside test," Williams said.
Steamboat Springs defense attorney Kris Hammond said there is no penalty for refusing a field sobriety test, but drivers who refuse a chemical test at a hospital or jail can have their licenses revoked for up to a year. Wall said he still has his driver's license.
Wall was stopped at about 10:15 p.m. by Colorado State Patrol troopers Melissa Fowler and Brett Hilling on U.S. Highway 40. Williams said Wall was pulled over for failing to dim his headlights, and he called the incident a "routine traffic stop."
After issuing Wall a court summons, the troopers allowed the sheriff to leave with a sober driver, who was not identified.
The prohibitive use of a weapon charge was made because it is illegal to possess a weapon when under the influence of drugs or alcohol. That charge and the DUI charge are Class 1 misdemeanors that carry a minimum sentence of six months imprisonment or a $500 fine, or both. The maximum sentences are 18 months imprisonment or a $5,000 fine, or both.
"This is a serious matter," Wall said Monday. "It's a legal matter and it's not something that should be discussed in the media."
Wall said he's not trying to hide anything by refusing to talk about the incident.
"Obviously, I'm going to have an attorney," he said. "It's not that I have anything to hide, but this isn't the proper avenue. : It's just not appropriate. This thing happened, and now I'm going to deal with it."
Williams was similarly tight-lipped Monday. Citing the integrity of the ongoing investigation, Williams refused to release documents related to the case.
The Sheriff's Office has opened an internal affairs investigation to be conducted separate of the State Patrol's criminal investigation. The internal affairs investigation will seek to determine whether Wall violated Sheriff's Office policies or procedures. Sheriff's Office investigators Ken Klinger and Mike Curzon and Sgt. Miles De Young will lead the investigation.
Klinger said possible ramifications of an internal affairs investigation range from nothing to termination. However, Wall, an elected official, could not be fired.
"An elected official can only be removed involuntarily like that by a recall," said John Merrill, the county's attorney. Merrill also expressed concerns about the department's internal investigation. "I don't know how you do an internal investigation of your boss. That doesn't work too well."
Klinger dismissed such concerns.
"Believe me, the three of us are not afraid to do that," he said. "We don't use outside sources for internal affairs. Nobody does that."
More than 200 people attended the Chamber's celebration Saturday. Alcohol was served at the event.
David Cullen, who attended the event and said he and Wall are "old friends," said there was "no question" that Wall wasn't intoxicated.
"I know he wasn't drunk when I talked to him, and I didn't see him drink anything," Cullen said.
- To reach Brandon Gee, call 871-4210
or e-mail email@example.com