A Greeley man who wrecked a stolen car during a high-speed chase last year and fled the hospital before he could be placed into custody was sentenced to three years in prison Tuesday.
James Vance Nicholson, 38, pleaded guilty to felony eluding. He originally faced felony charges of vehicular eluding, criminal impersonation and second-degree aggravated motor vehicle theft, and misdemeanor charges of driving under the influence, reckless driving, operating an uninsured motor vehicle and possession of drug paraphernalia.
"What you did in this community, it was dangerous," Judge Shelley Hill said. "On top of that, it was elusive and deceptive."
Nicholson's three-year prison sentence is the maximum he could have received in the presumptive range for the eluding charge, a Class 5 felony.
Nicholson was accused of leading a Colorado State Patrol trooper on a high-speed chase across Routt County last year, allegedly reaching speeds of up to 120 mph on Colorado Highway 131 and Routt County Road 14 in a stolen Lincoln sedan.
Nicholson lost control of the car while attempting a sharp turn from C.R. 14 onto C.R. 14C. The car came to rest upside-down in a field adjacent to the road.
Nicholson sustained minor injuries in the crash and was transported via ambulance to Yampa Valley Medical Center, where he eluded arrest by walking out of the hospital in his nightgown at 3 a.m. the next day. Law enforcement officers were unaware he had given a false identity - his brother's - until after his escape.
Nicholson addressed the court Tuesday morning, calling his behavior "irresponsible" and "reprehensible."
"I would like to offer a formal apology to the city of Steamboat Springs. It was never my intention to put anyone's life in danger," he said.
Nicholson also issued an apology to his family, who listened in on Tuesday's sentencing by speakerphone.
Nicholson was arrested Dec. 15 by the Greeley Police Department on unrelated charges. He has remained in custody since that time in Routt and Weld counties.
Hill denied a request from Nicholson's public defender, Trevor McFee, for the three-year sentence on Nicholson's felony eluding charge to run concurrently with an existing community corrections sentence. Nicholson was on parole at the time of the chase and had served two years of a required three-year stay in a halfway house. Deputy District Attorney Carl Stahl also objected to the request.
"Concurrent sentencing tends to detract from the acceptance of responsibility," Stahl said.
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