Routt County Sheriff Gary Wall, right, leaves the Justice Center with his attorney Ron Smith on Monday during a lunch break.

Photo by Matt Stensland

Routt County Sheriff Gary Wall, right, leaves the Justice Center with his attorney Ron Smith on Monday during a lunch break.

Wall trial gets started

Sheriff's public prominence makes for lengthy jury selection

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— After a few witnesses Monday, attorneys prosecuting Routt County Sheriff Gary Wall with charges that he drove drunk nine months ago had a hard time establishing more than Wall's defense already admits.

The scheduled three-day trial began Monday with a lengthy jury selection and concluded early in the afternoon after the prosecution called four witnesses to the stand.

Wall's defense contends that - before getting into his car to drive home - the county's top law enforcement officer had only one glass of wine Oct. 27 at the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association's centennial celebration at Sidney Peak Ranch. Four witnesses called by the prosecution - one bartender and three who shared a dinner table with Wall - couldn't say they saw the sheriff drink more.

Bartender Rachael Shiebler said she sold Wall a glass of red wine toward the beginning of the celebration and did not sell him anything the rest of the night. Shiebler was not the only bartender at the event.

Ron Smith, Wall's lawyer, said in his opening statement that Wall also bought a glass for his wife, Jenny Wilson, and also poured her several glasses of wine during dinner. Ian Prichard, Heidi Thomsen and Lisa Douglas said there were bottles of red and white wine at the dinner table they shared with Wall, as well as brandy snifters for a toast, but they were not sure how much Wall drank.

"I'm not sure the exact amount," Prichard said. "I just know he was drinking (wine) socially like the rest of us."

Under questioning by Smith, Shiebler said she did not observe any signs of intoxication from Wall. Thomsen, also under questioning, said Wall appeared to be calm and relaxed at the dinner table, and that his speech was understandable and not slurred. Douglas said that in addition to red wine, she saw Wall with a glass of clear liquid in it, but she did not know what it was.

While returning home from the celebration, Wall was pulled over by the Colorado State Patrol at Walton Creek Road and U.S. Highway 40 for an alleged failure to dim his headlights. Troopers say they observed signs of intoxication from Wall, who subsequently refused to perform roadside sobriety tests or submit to any tests of his blood alcohol level. He was cited on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol, failure to dim and prohibited use of a weapon because he had a gun in his car and it is against the law to be in possession of a firearm while under the influence of alcohol.

In her opening statement, Anne Francis, one of the case's two special prosecutors from Eagle County, dismissed the notion that there was a conspiracy to frame Wall for driving under the influence, an idea the defense has alluded to in previous hearings.

"Ladies and gentlemen, this is not a special case," Francis said. "This is a case that has been tried hundreds of times before in courtrooms across the nation. This is not about politics, conspiracies or misunderstandings. This is about a man who drove drunk."

In her questioning of potential jurors, Karen Romeo, the second prosecutor, asked whether any of them have ever needed a test to tell if someone is drunk. In another allusion to Wall's refusal to submit to tests of his blood alcohol level, Romeo asked jurors whether they could ever imagine a situation where they wouldn't press a "magic button" to prove their innocence.

In his opening arguments, Smith said that, except for failing to dim his headlights, Wall was driving "safely and prudently."

In his final questioning of jurors, Smith asked if any of them had ever had bloodshot eyes or stumbled or forgotten to turn off their bright headlights when they weren't drunk.

Selecting a jury proved difficult for a case involving the prominent and controversial sheriff. Seventy-five potential jurors packed the courtroom. Fifteen were dismissed for reasons such as being a potential witness in the case, prejudices toward alcohol, preconceived notions about the sheriff, and health problems. Most were dismissed only after they were questioned in the chambers of Senior Judge Cecil Wayne Williams along with Smith, Wall, Romeo and Francis.

"I'm going to get my jogging in today," Williams joked in the middle of the frequent entrances and exits from the courtroom.

Williams frequently made light of a jury selection that started at about 9 a.m. and didn't conclude until about 2 p.m., peppering the proceedings with stories from past cases and his military service.

"This is probably going to be the longest jury selection I've ever had," Williams said, "and I had a murder case. : I haven't had so much fun since my grandfather killed my pet calf."

Williams denied a request by the Steamboat Pilot & Today to allow still photography in the courtroom on three legal grounds that there was a reasonable likelihood that expanded media coverage would "interfere with the rights of the parties to a fair trial," "unduly detract from the solemnity, decorum and dignity of the court" and that it "would create adverse effects, which would be greater than those caused by traditional media coverage."

Comments

Joe_Mama 6 years, 5 months ago

Joe doesn't care what Gus thinks, he is not here to amuse Gus.

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boatski 6 years, 5 months ago

I just don't understand why someone (Wall) would go through such lengths by bringing all these witnesses up to prove he didn't drink enough to be drunk when all he had to do was succumb to a blood test? This whole trial is a farce, what a waste of our money.

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another_local 6 years, 5 months ago

Boatski, Read the story again. It is the prosecutor, not the defense, that is calling these witnesses. It does not seem to be going well for the prosecution if they can't find anyone that saw Wall have more than a single drink.

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inowatsup 6 years, 5 months ago

If he is able to walk from this then there should be something for everyone else who has had a dui in this area. Can we all just drink and drive, since he is able to do this than why can't the rest of us?

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bigdog 6 years, 5 months ago

every one keeps questioning why Wall got special treatment. HELLO, he is the elected sheriff. What would one expect?

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summerbird 6 years, 5 months ago

Red nose, an unfortunate trait of Irish or partially Irish ancesty when they drink, get angry or any other emotional experience.

The question is not how much he had to drink, it is the refusal of the sobriety test. Why should he get special treatment just because he is sheriff? Equal application of the law and due process for all!

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rsssco 6 years, 5 months ago

summerbird, He did not get special treatment. It is the right of every citizen to refuse the test. It comes form this little inconvenient document called the Constitution that protects us all - even you and your relatives summerbird.

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kbergeth 6 years, 5 months ago

rsssco, will you enlighten us with YOUR understanding of the law that allows you to simply GO HOME after committing a crime and getting caught? When I got caught for the same crime, I had to go to jail/detox and get sober before they let me go. And you seem anxious to defend the sheriff, so please defend why he is wasting tax payer dollars on an expensive jury trial when refusing a blood test is plainly admitting guilt?

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CoJustice 6 years, 5 months ago

Waste of money:. you have not yet seen the kind of money that can be wasted in a trial like this.

All the stage-managing claims of conspiracy and disgruntle employees could be a careful manipulative scheme to have the County pay his attorneys fees or enter into some kind of settlement.

If he sticks with his County-employee defense, and claims he has been adversely affected by actions brought by an employee or citizen as part of a conspiracy, he will request the Court to have County Commissioners compensate him for his attorneys fee.

BINGO:.. taxpayers get to pay his attorneys fees:.. Yahoo

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trump_suit 6 years, 5 months ago

The sadest part of this whole episode is that the State Patrol had both suspicion and reason to "require" a BAC test. Even though Sheriff Wall refused the roadside tests, he was in possession of a weapon, and the police on scene had reason to beleive that he was intoxicated (smell, actions, demeanor etc.)

If this had happened to any normal citizen of this valley, the next step would have been handcuffs and a BAC test at the hospital. Sheriff Wall was treated differently for reasons that have not become public. The real question is WHY????

Gotta agree with shadow here, without the BAC tests, he will never be found guilty beyond a resonable doubt. I am not sure why it went that way it did, but the whole process stinks from top to bottom.

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inowatsup 6 years, 5 months ago

if anyone is driving and you get pulled over by law enforcement and they suspect alcohol is involved you are suppose to have a test and if you refufuse the test your license will be suspended. it doesn't matter who says what when. Why did he refuse the test? Did he threaten some jobs or something like that?

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Joe_Mama 6 years, 5 months ago

Joe thinks it is special treatment when, instead of going straight to jail, a suspected drunk driver is allowed to not only keep a loaded weapon, but is also allowed to call an employee to pick him up and take him home.

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OnTheBusGus 6 years, 5 months ago

Joe also demonstrates that it is not amusing when he/she types in the third person. Although when blog does it, it is slightly amusing.

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seeuski 6 years, 5 months ago

SilverSpoon is right, If the jury goes by the evidence as presented which in this case seems not much better than heresay.

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katrinkakelly 6 years, 5 months ago

I second that motion Dundalk! I thought you were from Maryland but I bet ya really from Georgia!

I am vomiting right a along with you! What a mess...........

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rsssco 6 years, 5 months ago

Joe demonstrates that he neither understands the law or the facts of the case.

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Joe_Mama 6 years, 5 months ago

Then, in all your wisdom, please enlighten Joe.

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SilverSpoon 6 years, 5 months ago

If proper procedure was followed, he would have had to go "downtown" and get a blood test and run the gauntlet of sobriety tests. However, he was allowed to go home, so the prosecuter has no case, no evidence, case closed.

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shadow 6 years, 5 months ago

He'll walk (literally: can't drive). Without the BAC results there is not "proof beyond a reasonable doubt."

Why has he wasted the taxpayers money? He knew he was borderline and didn't want to chance the results. He knew by refusing the breathalizer he'd likely lose the license but there'd be no evidence to find him guilty of the DUI or weapons charges. Clever.

Deputy drove him home, not hauled into jail. Why did he receive that special treatment?

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justice4all 6 years, 5 months ago

Interesting, for whatever the reason. Wall was given special treatment that would be afforded to only a select few. WHY??? Many of us feel that the only reasona spcial prosecutor was brought in to try and I do say try the case is because or DA (that can be the abreviation for more than one title) can not gain a conviction on anything anymore. They have a way of draining an accused of their finances and then forcing them to submit to a plea------ guily or not!!!

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soccercstate 6 years, 5 months ago

Bigdog, good question: why do we treat "elected" officials special!!!! We put them in office, they work for us....they are not special!
From congress to the senate, to any elected official, why do we allow these people to get away with things that you and I are held to?

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shadow 6 years, 5 months ago

I think the answer to the question "WHY (wasn't he arrested?)" is that the CSP provided a "?professional?" extension of goodwill to the Sheriff so that his own subordinates wouldn't have to endure the discomfort of booking him in his own jail and he wouldn't have endure the embarrassment of a Barney Fife role. The order likely came from CSP HQ rather than a decision made at the scene.

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madmoores 6 years, 5 months ago

I think Dundalk is from mexiforn...I mean California, not sure though. This is great, now I can go out, drink my happy face off and get away with it simply by taking the hit on the drivers license, why didn't I think of this in high school. They have nothing to prove I was drunk because it's my right to refuse the test so it's home free...woohoo.......p-a-r-t-y time!! Shoot if this is OK now I'm going out on the corner of 7th & Lincoln, snapping down a lawn chair, popping a 40 and sparking a joint, I mean c'mon, what harm am I doing? All one has to do is refuse any testing and viola', no punishment. Not!! What a poor role model and an embarrassment to your fine county.

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dundalk 6 years, 5 months ago

Mad:

You guessed it. Born and raised So.Cal. I think Rodney King got what he had coming to him; I think that Stacey Koon and Offcr. Brisineo should have had a parade. I believe that if you are an elected law official, then you should lead as a positive role model. I think that the CRASH unit in the LAPD was a great group and that Rampart Div. is the lesser for not having that task force any longer. I am relieved to know that I did not vote for Jester Wall. I believe that Tupac and Biggie Smalls are burning in a warm spot. I believe that the men and women at the Routt Co. Sheriff's office deserve better than what they have right now. I believe that eventually Wall's happy spending sprees will bankrupt our county. I believe that Bustos abused his work vehicle for personal businessl.

I saw, first hand, Walland Bustos drinking, while armed and with their badges prominently displayed , at the recent RCSAR fundraiser.

I support our local law enforcement and EMS personnel. I also believe that this post will probably be deleted soon.

I also think that this year's Allstar Game at my BELOVED YANKEE STADIUM will be a great game! Go American League!

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colobob 6 years, 5 months ago

summerbird, actually there are no less than 33 medical conditions that can cause "Red Nose," and contrary to what you suggest it is not specific to those of Irish lineage. Suggest you do a little more reasearch before you stereotype any ethnic group. As a proud Irishman (Irish-American) who's Grandparents on both sides of the family tree immigrated to this country to make a better life for themselves and their families I take offense to the remark. I can think of one other "Myth" you may actually believe to be true.

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Christina McLean 6 years, 5 months ago

How 'bout this? Wall didn't want to take the test because he realized that the same people that set him up for the pullover would probably mess with his BAC results? You guys are all so busy tripping over yourselves to see who gets to throw the rope over the tree that you don't see that even our own 'head of the law' here in Routt County knows that innocent people can't always trust the law to maintain that innocence.

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dundalk 6 years, 5 months ago

obstructed... i think that ted kennedy has a booster seat for you in his car. i do have sturdy rope... would you like to borrow it ?

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CoJustice 6 years, 5 months ago

Colorado Native-

Not to mention the quality of life to participants, cost estimates depend on the time frame examined. Some costs are long-term in nature and others by operational. With some of the items I have listed, you can easily be over the million-dollar mark.

Department of Revenue Hearings, State costs associated Department of Revenue salaries and administrative costs Cost of reinstating your driver's license, classes, etc. Possible ignition interlock device on County Vehicle Possible certain kind of insurance for years on County Vehicle Jury salaries, company reported losses, time & cost Witness time & expense Deputy (three) internal investigation & man-hours, vehicles, research, etc Prosecutes, Special Prosecutors, Judges man hours Cost of police attending Courts Expense of collecting evidence State Officers investigation, reports, and hours Judicial salaries Defense Attorney Administrative costs, State officers, County, etc Judicial administrative costs Recorders Attorney General costs County Commissioners costs Cost of services given by Court Court Costs

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Christina McLean 6 years, 5 months ago

dun - you are so amusing in your cliche'-way; Chappaquiddick is always a reliable try at a game of darts instead of logic for certain folk. Are you dun?

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CoJustice 6 years, 5 months ago

I would like to see a statement from County Commissioners and the Attorney General regarding consumption of alcohol and county vehicles.

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ColoradoNative 6 years, 5 months ago

CoJustice:

If you to guess how much could a trial like this cost us taxpayers when you add up attorney fees, salaries of all those involved etc?

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dundalk 6 years, 5 months ago

obstructed...cliche or not - i got you to respond and try to volley. have a nice night.

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kusellout 6 years, 5 months ago

I hope the jury keeps in mind that the testimony from folks at the party doesn't really matter. Someone could be "stone cold sober" at 7pm when people saw him and "totally drunk" at 9pm. What matters is (1) that he was stopped for failure to dim his headlights (valid traffic stop) and (2) based on behavior witnessed by the stopping officer, was deemed to be drunk (smell, slurred speech, etc) and then refused a breathalyzer to disprove that. Nothing else matters! How many times have people used the "I only had one drink" excuse and the judge/jury not believe that line. If this judge/jury chooses to believe it, I will be extremely disappointed in our community.

By the way, where is MADD in all this?

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