Our View: The silence is disturbing

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— Routt County Sheriff Gary Wall and the Colorado State Patrol owe the public honest accounts of what happened during a Saturday night traffic stop that resulted in Wall being given a court summons for driving under the influence.

As of Tuesday afternoon, the State Patrol has refused to provide any specifics about the incident, and Wall has said only that he wasn't intoxicated and didn't take roadside sobriety tests.

That's not good enough. As an elected official and the highest-ranking law enforcement officer in Routt County, Wall should be held to a higher standard. Instead of hiding behind the cloak of legal defense, the sheriff needs to address his take on the events of Saturday night. Did he have any drinks before driving home from the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association's 100th anniversary celebration at Sidney Peak Ranch? Why did he not take roadside sobriety tests? Was he driving his county-owned vehicle? Who gave him a ride home after the traffic stop?

Wall insists he is innocent. And we presume that innocence until he is convicted in a court of law. But his silence on the issue is concerning, particularly for someone who campaigned for sheriff on a platform that emphasized openness with the community he was elected to serve.

Also concerning - and ironic - is the message Wall's actions seem to send to teens and other members of the community: Whether or not you've had any drinks, refuse to cooperate with law enforcement officers. That seems more like the behavior of a defendant than a sheriff.

Wall's standing in the public eye isn't helped by some of his decisions since he took office less than a year ago. Wall battled with Routt County commissioners about the starting salary for Undersheriff David Bustos, an old friend of Wall's who last worked in law enforcement 30 years ago. In May, Bustos was ticketed for causing an accident - and $1,100 worth of damage to his county vehicle - in Utah while picking up an office desk. That incident sparked an ongoing debate between Wall and the commissioners about Sheriff's Office policies.

Saturday night's incident is the most concerning, and that's why we think Wall owes his constituents an explanation.

We have the same expectations of openness from the Colorado State Patrol, which has refused to provide any information about the traffic stop, including copies of the court summons issued to Wall and the incident report. For the State Patrol to cite the top law official in the county for DUI and not provide any details is disturbing. Why, if Wall was indeed intoxicated, was he not arrested and taken for a chemical test? What were the circumstances behind the decision to pull him over for failing to dim his headlights?

It's time for some of these questions to be answered. We urge both Wall and the State Patrol to do the right thing and shine light on this discouraging incident.

Comments

twostroketerror 7 years, 1 month ago

Wow, 6 questions (in the above article) this paper should have asked BEFORE publishing the above article. Should be in the forum. Easier to rouse the rabble than find the facts? Guess we'll have to keep glued to Fox 'news' for the rest of the story.

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2007 7 years, 1 month ago

I agree with two points of this article:

"Routt County Sheriff Gary Wall and the Colorado State Patrol owe the public honest accounts of what happened during a Saturday night traffic stop"

"And we presume that innocence until he is convicted in a court of law."

I don't know any of the parties involved, but I think it would be much better for the honest accounts to be given under oath in a hearing or trial. For the local paper to expect to be told all the details, so they can print them is not fair to the driver nor to the people of the community. Let the facts come out in a proper judicial setting, then the paper can publish them. For the paper to demand all parties to tell them all the facts now, would not be conductive to a fair hearing/trail. I would prefer a legal hearing to be done by the appropriate court not by local newspapers and their readers. I realize Steamboat Springs is proud of a western heritage, but let's move away from this "string 'em up mentality".

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stompk 7 years, 1 month ago

Way to step up to the plate, Pilot. This won't go away this time.

Finally, the citizens take charge, and it all starts right here in Steamboat Springs, Colorado.

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Gladys 7 years, 1 month ago

When anyone else gets cited for DUI, they are taken to jail and their name is printed in the paper...this is all BEFORE they are actually convicted.

And now...if Wall was not "tested"...where is the proof?

This is scandalous and embarrassing for the community. The taxpayers will no doubt pay for Wall's legal defense...and I am pretty sure he knows he can get out of this with barely a scrape, if that. I agree with the Pilot - why the cover up? Smells fishy.

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JQPUBLIC 7 years, 1 month ago

muskno...do you really think this will make it to court? If the charges don't get dropped, then it will be plea bargained to something like "carrying a weapon while others were drinking" punishable by a very stern don't get caught again. They really need to get some outside help with this one.

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justathought 7 years, 1 month ago

Good points SP&T, even if Mr. Wall wants to stand behind his (our) attorneys, what is the excuse of the CSP? The more they try to hide, the more the media digs, I hope.

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Matthew Stoddard 7 years, 1 month ago

JQ is most likely correct. If Wall never had to submit to any alcohol related test, there is no way to prove beyond a reasonable doubt whether he was intoxicated or not. If charges were pursued, this would get thrown out due to procedure not being followed and no proof of BAC.

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cantstanya 7 years, 1 month ago

Thank you PILOT, only 2 people really know what happened that night and that is the Sheriff and the Trooper. There may have been a passenger or another officer but keep it simple. The release at the scene should have nothing to do with the summons issued. But I agree, the Sheriff should go to the PILOT and answer any and all questions. He is not a citizen, he is an elected official, a 24/7 employee, one who is trusted and looked up to. Instead he is going to hide behind "his" rights and revert back to his old days of a defense investigator. We are all sorry for what happened but now is the time to do the right thing!

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Ms_E_Bronte 7 years, 1 month ago

cantstanya: Shouldn't your statement read: "one who SHOULD be trusted and SHOULD be looked up to"? But your're absolutely right: Wall should step up to the plate without OUR attorneys (we're footing the bill for his latest blunder--right?) and accept responsibility for his actions -- innocent or guilty.

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Benny 7 years, 1 month ago

I have a feeling that Mr. Wall has been hiding a lot about himself. What was the story on his arrest walking home from a casino? Does anyone have any info on that? Was it an arrest, or a detox hold? I think I heard alcohol was involved in that situation, also. Wall has insisted that he was not impaired the night he received the DUI, but if he wasn't impaired, then why didn't he just take the sobriety tests to prove that he was safe to drive?? If he was sober, then he would have passed the breath test and then not charged with any crime. If it were me and I was being accused of impairment, I would insist that I take any test that would prove otherwise. I've seen cases where a driver was suspected of driving under the influence and when the blood/breath test came back clean, charges were not filed. I wonder what reason Wall has for not cooperating with the sobriety tests. As the Sheriff, Wall should let the public know his reasons for denying the tests that law enforcement expects from anyone with a driver's license. If he wants to maintain silence to protect him from a legal aspect, that is understandable, but at the least he should tell us why he chose to envoke his right to refuse. It wouldn't hurt his case to give us that much.

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dundalk 7 years, 1 month ago

Gladys:

Look into Preponderance of the evidence vs. beyond a reasonable doubt and therein you shall find the evidence which can punish Wall for his alleged crime.

His failure to omit to the road sides can be used as evidence against him. Of course, maybe if he had received the proper police training vis-a-vis the POST exam he'd know all this to begin with.

Have a nice day Gladys!

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Hannibal 7 years, 1 month ago

With all due respect, believe it or not, I have to say that if the original article was serious and some of the responses are serious - folks in your neck of the woods are a wee bit out there. Please at least become informed with how our legal process works - it is pretty simple to understand and it does not matter if you are the President or Sheriff or average citizen, same system applies.

All the "elected official" cries are true, the Sheriff is that. The people have the opportunity to fix that come election time, meanwhile you are stuck with what you elected because you were so sure of yourselves. Those that voted against him apparently aren't in the majority, so you only get to continue to do what you've had to do since the last election - wait and, if you have that kind of extra time, complain about it.

As for the CSP, and really law enforcement in general, again there seems to be some void of knowledge in your parts. Possibly at least your newspaper can help you and print some information to broaden your ability to interact with the rest of the known world. Law enforcement has one purpose, as an unbiased observer of a crime who in turn reports what is known to the judicial system so that advocates for the people and the Defendant can, in turn, assist judge and/or jury in making a decision as to penalty the Defendant deserves.

I simply really can't believe that so many of you have the time to get this worked up over something which will most definately be handled by the appropriate folks. Surely nobody can believe that a law enforcement entity is going to "turn a blind eye" internally to this? Or that the CSP would do anything that would in any way tarnish its widely recognized reputation as being one of the most highly regarded agencies in the country?

I wrote this only in hopes that maybe folks in your area would realize you look silly to those of us on the outside. I don't know you, don't know about your area, but several (unfortunately negative) things are assumed based on your comments and the article.

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wzstfu 7 years, 1 month ago

Hannibal - it's a small town and quite removed from the real world. Lately all we have had to talk about is the up coming City Council elections. Boring. There are a number of citizens who are still pretty ticked off that their boy didn't win for sheriff.

You are right as far as learning how the legal system works and there are one or two folks who have posted who have some knowledge and have tried to share it. Unfortunately, the rest hate this man so much that they would rather make up the laws to suit their opinions. The fact that roadside tests are voluntary is something that they absolutely refuse to grasp. Even the newspaper can't figure it out: "Also concerning - and ironic - is the message Wall's actions seem to send to teens and other members of the community: Whether or not you've had any drinks, refuse to cooperate with law enforcement officers. That seems more like the behavior of a defendant than a sheriff." He didn't refuse to cooperate - he refused to take the tests. This doesn't mean he was acting above the law. He was simple exercising his rights.

We probably do seem like a bunch of silly people to outsiders like yourself. We seem like a bunch of silly people to me and I have lived here a long time.

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colobob 7 years, 1 month ago

Innocent until proven guilty not guilty until proven innocent. I'll wait and see.

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sickofitall 7 years, 1 month ago

Hey, the Pilot does not have to back up ANYTHING printed and they have lawyers to back them up on it! Keep printing the smut! lol

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CoJustice 7 years, 1 month ago

Hannibal: Being from the outside I don't suppose you know the Sheriff ran a private investigative business. He made his living being a professional witness in DUI cases. He is an expert at fighting DUI's, and knows all the tricks. You should also know the Sheriff held a town meeting to discredit law enforcement officers of the city, county and state trying to protect citizens from drunk drivers. The citizens have been the ones living with his anti-police, no accountability attitude, not you. He may get off this time, but there will be a next time.

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mud 7 years, 1 month ago

hannibal, I understand small town life can seem silly to outsiders. The sheriff election was a big deal in this county and it got a lot of people bent out of shape. Everyone seems to have their own beef on how this case was handled. You have to understand that there is a strict form of law around here, but it can be very selective. When the CSP warns anyone driving under the influence will be arrested."no exceptions, no excuses" the day before this incident, to many its another example of selective law enforcement. I don't claim to know the laws, but I haven't met one person in Routt county who even knows someone who recieved a DUI citation without getting booked.

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mud 7 years, 1 month ago

guilty or not guilty, I really don't care. If the CSP had handled this like they do every other case, Routt county wouldn't be going crazy with speculation. We would have answers instead of questions.

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murphyslaw28 7 years, 1 month ago

Yes CSP has an issue with the truth. With past profesional dealings with the CSP I know first hand they like to skirt the truth to pad there case. They like to avoid problems by pointing there finger at somebody else. Its like dealing with a 5 year old with his fingers in the cookie jar. I want the truth. i deal with people who have DUI's on a daily basis. This is not fair to them, dont get me wrong, a person with a DUI needs to stand up and take there punishment. but as any other high profile case Mr. Wall will have his hand slapped and he will move on. as for the county tax payer, we get to deal with the costs coming from this stunt for a while. Just so you know, anybody with a DUI will have a hard time getting a job. LOWES building centers will not hire a person with a dui nor will sinclair corp. or even kum and go. so if he keeps his job guilty or innocent that is a shame to the entire justice system.

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another_local 7 years, 1 month ago

With the history between Wall and the law enforcement community since his election, as relected by some of the blogging here, I think over-enforcement is at least as likely as under-enforcement in this case. Regardless of what I think, there has not been enough information in the newspaper for ANY of us to draw valid conclusions.

The man has rights. Let's let the system do what it is supposed to do. If there was no probable cause or evidence he should walk. If there was probable cause and evidence to support the charge he should suffer the consequences.

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id04sp 7 years, 1 month ago

This case is helping to illustrate something that I have tried to convince people about for years. There is a double standard -- maybe a triple standard -- in our law enforcement and justice systems in Routt County, as well as with the entire State to some degree.

I think that Sheriff Wall made some huge improvments in the local law enforcement community by driving out people with personal agendas and partisan loyalties that had nothing to do with keeping the peace and enforcing the laws. I was really hoping he would be able to move on up the pay scale and do some much needed house cleaning among local and state government officials and employees. Now, if the allegations against him are true, none of that will happen.

I also know enough about how it works around here to know that Sheriff Wall could have been framed or set up. It happens. Unpopular people get targeted around here while those who can do favors go free.

I had the misfortune to deal with another party who was represented by an attorney with political and social friends in the justice system. He did favors for his friends, and they did favors for him. All of these folks had ties to the Republican party, and some of them went as high as the leadership in the state legislature. The truth is that, if you get involved in a beef in the State of Colorado and your opponent has politically connected friends, your only hope to see the laws enforced is to have your case heard by the United States Supreme Court. The Supreme Court does not hear cases where errors or even malice are at the root of state court decisions, but instead, deals with matters in which the law has not been "well settled" in previous cases. This leaves the Colorado State Court System to do what it pleases, because there is nobody to stop them.

This "justice" environment sets the stage for how law enforcement agencies operate, because they cannot bring cases before the court which will never be heard, no matter how meritorious. All it takes is a County judge to dismiss a case against a friend of a friend in high places, and that's the end.

I think I'll just go ahead and say right here that, if Gary Wall was a Republican, he would go before Judge Garrecht and his case would be thrown out for lack of evidence due to a lack of the chemical test for BAC.

So, let's wait and see what happens. Look at Gary Wall, sure, but also look at the system as he passes through it. You might see some interesting things before this is all over.

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Matthew Stoddard 7 years, 1 month ago

ID- It won't matter what affiliation Wall is: no sobriety test, no BAC to present as evidence, no conviction on that count. Even I could get out of that.

From everything Wall has done so far, he's got his own exact same type of "good ole boy network" that you railed against past Sheriffs for having. It's just different faces; that's all. He's already shown most people that he hasn't lived up to any campaign issue yet. No real known admonishment of Bustos for crashing a County vehicle over state lines on a personal furniturer run, but fire an idiot kid because he was wearing a sheriff's t-shirt while possibly trying/failing to pick up a date in Ft. Collins. (yeah, creepy but not against the law)

Plus, since Fowler was coming from the opposite direction, with high beams in her eyes, it's usually hard to tell a license number or even get an idea of what color/type of vehicle it is coming toward you. The Chamber party was a few miles down the road from where he got pulled over, and 131, from the times I would be going to Oak Creek, has a lot more SO vehicles patrolling regularly than CSP.

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id04sp 7 years, 1 month ago

Kielbasa,

You are right about all of it. I was simply hoping that Wall's good ol' boys would swing the balance back toward the middle for a while. I really would prefer a system where there's equal justice for all, but failing that, and after my experiences over the past ten or eleven years, I think it's my turn to win a couple.

As for the scenario of how Wall could have been targeted, all it takes is a cell phone. The cops have radios too, ya know, but those might be recorded. Someone following Wall at a distance could easily talk to the oncoming trooper by cell phone. Think how easy that would be if you had taken five minutes to set it up between stops for donuts.

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