Wednesday, January 16, 2008
Steamboat Springs The location of Routt County Sheriff Gary Wall's trial will not be decided until at least next month.
Wall, who is charged with driving under the influence after an October 2007 incident, made a brief appearance in Routt County Court today, but little progress was made in the case.
After the attorneys in the case said they had not reached a plea agreement, discussion turned to special prosecutor Karen Romeo's request for a change of venue because of what she called "massive, pervasive and prejudicial" publicity in Routt County.
Steamboat attorney Ron Smith, Wall's lawyer, asked that Routt County Judge James Garrecht not rule on that motion. Smith said that he did not receive a copy of Romeo's motion until just before Wednesday morning's proceedings.
"I just received a copy today," Smith told Garrecht. "Ms. Romeo apparently transposed some numbers on my P.O. Box."
Smith confirmed that he will be opposing Romeo's request.
"We will be opposing that motion," Smith said. "I'd like to have an opportunity to respond."
Smith requested 15 days, and Garrecht had no problem giving him that opportunity. Garrecht set a hearing date of Feb. 13 at 8:30 a.m., but noted he may rule earlier after receiving Smith's response.
"Are you intending to rule on that, because you had talked earlier about recusing yourself?" Smith asked Garrecht, noting the judge had said at Wall's last court appearance that he would eventually recuse himself from the case due to the court's close working relationship with the Routt County Sheriff's Office. "If you felt that there could be questions of your fairness : then perhaps someone else should rule."
Romeo also expected Garrecht to recuse himself at this stage in the case, according to comments made Tuesday.
But Garrecht implied he does not yet see a conflict of interest in ruling on the change of venue motion.
"I'm not sure that's such a huge issue," Garrecht said.
Garrecht noted that whenever the case moves to a new jurisdiction, officials in Denver would pick the location. Romeo noted that she is a close friend of Mary Hoak, a judge in Hot Sulphur Springs who hears cases monthly in Routt County.
"In principle, you all could be heading to Lamar, Colo., for a trial," said Garrecht, though he expects the case to stay closer to Routt County.
Wall was cited for driving under the influence and a related weapons charge on Oct. 27, 2007, when he was pulled over by the Colorado State Patrol near Walton Creek Road and U.S. Highway 40 for an alleged failure to dim his headlights.
The State Patrol revoked Wall's license because he refused to take a chemical breath test. Wall appealed the revocation to the Colorado Department of Revenue and was given a temporary driver's license. But in a Dec. 19 hearing, Department of Revenue hearing officer Art Julian upheld the State Patrol's yearlong revocation.
If Wall is convicted of DUI in a criminal trial, he faces an additional yearlong loss of his driver's license.
Romeo said the Department of Revenue's ruling may play a role in her case.
"That is a consequence," Romeo said. "We would consider consequences that have already been imposed."