Eldridge felt he had to resign

Sheriff Wall not ready to discuss 'issues' with his traffic stop, DWAI conviction

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— Former Deputy Lance Eldridge said Thursday that he felt "he had no choice" but to resign from the Routt County Sheriff's Office late Tuesday night.

"It was a discrete event, and I just felt I was in a position where I had to," Eldridge said. "Ultimately, all of this is going to blow over, and it needs to."

He delivered damaging testimony Tuesday in Routt County Court against Sheriff Gary Wall, who was convicted by a jury Wednesday of driving while ability impaired and two related charges.

Eldridge said his decision to resign was "related" to his testimony. He would not be more specific and said he does not know what his plans are in the wake of his resignation.

Hours after Wednesday's verdict, Wall said he will not consider resigning under any circumstances. When asked whether he would appeal or take any other action in response to the conviction, Wall said, "I have some issues that we're going to address."

On Thursday, Wall said he was not ready to be more specific.

"I haven't talked to my attorney about anything," Wall said. "I'm not prepared to do that right now."

While on the witness stand Wednesday, Wall recounted the evening of Oct. 27, 2007, when he was pulled over by Trooper Melissa Fowler of the Colorado State Patrol for a failure to dim his headlights. Wall was subsequently charged with that traffic violation, driving under the influence of alcohol and prohibited use of a weapon. The DWAI that Wall was convicted of Wednesday is a lesser charge than DUI.

Wall said he drank only one glass of red wine at the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association centennial celebration he was returning home from that night, and he conveyed his belief that there was a "bounty on his head" and a calculated effort to frame him for DUI.

Wall testified Wednesday that he became suspicious of the traffic stop from its very beginning.

Wall confirmed that he did not answer questions from Fowler or Trooper Brett Hilling - who was called to the scene and took over the investigation - about how much he had had to drink. He said Fowler came to his window and, in very quick succession, pointed out that his bright lights were on, said she smelled alcohol and asked him how much he had had to drink.

"I immediately thought to myself, 'Uh oh, this is not a normal stop,'" Wall said on the stand. "I decided I wasn't going to talk to her."

Case details

Wall said he refused any tests of his blood alcohol level for similar reasons, after Trooper Hilling read to him what he immediately wrote on an impairment form - that night, as Wall sat in a patrol car - including eight signs of impairment Hilling claimed to observe, such as Wall being unsteady on his feet and having red, watery eyes.

"I was very disturbed about what he had wrote," Wall said. "I said, Brett, that is not true. You know that is just not true. : I felt violated, and I was not going to do anything for Trooper Hilling because of that."

Wall lost his license for a year because of his refusal of tests. He said Wednesday that he regretted that decision.

Hilling was called to the stand to rebut Wall's testimony. He denied that the sheriff was a target and said he treated the traffic stop like any other.

The day before, Eldridge was the prosecution's last witness before it rested its case. Eldridge drove Wall and his wife, Jenny - who was then his girlfriend and using the surname Wilson - home that night. Eldridge said under oath Tuesday that, had the decision been his, he would have arrested the sheriff for DUI. Eldridge's testimony differed from that of Deputy Mark Mackey, who also saw Wall that night and said the sheriff "looked sober to me."

Wall's lawyer, Ron Smith, kicked off Wednesday's proceedings by playing a short segment of a recorded interview of Eldridge conducted by Trooper Brett Hilling on Nov. 5, 2007. Eldridge made a comment in the recording that appears to contradict his courtroom testimony.

In the recording, Eldridge answered, "No, I did not," when Hilling asked whether he observed any signs of intoxication or impairment in the sheriff. After the defense rested, special prosecutor Karen Romeo said Eldridge's answer was taken out of context and was "misleading to the jury." She asked to play a longer segment of the recorded interview.

Smith objected and said it would be inappropriate to allow Romeo to re-emphasize Eldridge's testimony. Smith said he was justified in playing the portion of the recording he did because it contradicted the testimony. Out of the presence of the jury, Senior Judge Cecil Wayne Williams listened to a longer portion of the recording, in which Eldridge's conversation with Hilling continued, and the former deputy made comments similar to his testimony Tuesday.

Williams sustained Smith's objection, and the jury did not hear this part of the recording.

Jenny Wall also testified Wednesday. She said Gary Wall was "absolutely sober," and claimed he danced "quickly," "smoothly" and "expressively" with her at the Chamber celebration.

During closing arguments, special prosecutor Anne Francis dismissed Wall's claim that he had been framed.

"It's a DUI trial," Francis said. "This case is not about conspiracies or about targets or about bounties."

In his closing statement, Smith emphatically repeated to the jury, "it's about the driving," and noted that no one disputed Wall had safely and properly operated his vehicle, except for his failure to dim.

"This case is not about the driving," special prosecutor Karen Romeo replied in the prosecution's final statement. "We don't have to prove bad driving. We have to prove that while he was driving that vehicle he was under the influence of alcohol."

- To reach Brandon Gee, call 871-4210

or e-mail bgee@steamboatpilot.com

Comments

Matthew Stoddard 6 years, 1 month ago

"Sir/Ma'am: have you been drinking tonight?"

"I plead the Wall."

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Hadleyburg_Press 6 years, 1 month ago

Wall, If you felt set up as the stop was proceeding, why not ask to be taken to the hospital for a blood test? You do know how those work don't you?

"I was very disturbed about what he had wrote," Wall said. "I said, Brett, that is not true. You know that is just not true. : I felt violated, and I was not going to do anything for Trooper Hilling because of that." You know what they say about cooperating with a police officer don't you?

Again, what about doing the most obvious thing you could have done to exonerate yourself if you felt you were being set up? A blood test. Or did you think the hospital staff was in on the grand conspiracy?

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id04sp 6 years, 1 month ago

If I was in Eldridge's position, I would leave too. If he told the truth, he should have a lot to fear about being set up himself. Cops hold grudges. Ask a fella who used to go by the name "Turtle" who bought drinks for him at the VFW, and then who was waiting outside when he got in his truck. Yeah, he was drunk, and he did wrong, but sitting outside waiting for him to finish his drinks and try to drive away was a setup from the first round.

If Eldridge lied, then he'd REALLY have something to worry about if he stayed in town. If I was in his postion, I'd be trying to hire the kid next door to start my car every morning.

My personal opinion is that his testimony and his departure have a lot more to do with his former coworkers who were let go than with the cause of justice.

And that, my friends, is what you are really dealing with when you deal with cops. 90% or more are great guys, but the ones who are on a power trip and are willing to use their power under color of law are the greatest single danger to our individual freedoms.

Gary Wall is still the Sheriff, and he'll have his license back in about three months, and I can't wait to see what happens next. Only he knows whether or not he was really innocent, and his actions from here on out should reflect his real character. I think it's stronger than most people give him credit for.

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CoJustice 6 years, 1 month ago

Id04: You spiteful malicious pathetic excuse of a man. It is painfully obvious who you are now.

As I read this statement, you just threatened Eldridge by your statement "I'd be trying to hire the kid next door to start my car every morning."

"His actions from here on out should reflect his real character". How can you know so much about employees and speak for his actions if you were not Wall.

Everyone knows what your character is. Your attacking everyone else for your incompetence is getting old. Defending your self-righteous platform has always been a priority over the well fare over the community and employees

You sure were not counting on an intelligent jury, professional Judge and a vivacious prosecutor.

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CoJustice 6 years, 1 month ago

I meant welfare, Its hard to type when your spitting at your post.

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CoJustice 6 years, 1 month ago

So Id04 (aka Wall) was your plan to manipulate people in OC into believing you would take over law enforcement and use their funding to balance your budget? Same panic tactic you have used before. Some of your character attributes?.

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techno_babble 6 years, 1 month ago

CO - you sure missed the ball on this one. Id is not Wall. He was outed several years ago under a different name. I won't repeat it, but I believe you have incorrectly identified this poster.

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CoJustice 6 years, 1 month ago

Ido4: What do you think it is going to cost the Commissioners to pay for your insurance to drive a County Vehicle? (in three months).

In your character self assessment, should the taxpayers pay for your insurance to drive a County vehicle?

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rsssco 6 years, 1 month ago

I think CoJustice should be renamed CoJuiced. You couldn't be farther of the mark on who id is if you tried. Id is a right-wing whack job former miltary pilot who nerever saw a conspiracy he didn't buy in to and Wall is a left-wing whack job former sheriff who is now sheriff again who believes he was the victim of a conspiracy. Hey--come to think of it--they do have a lot in common.

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rsssco 6 years, 1 month ago

As in you're hittin the juice a bit early on a Friday. Maybe you're Wall.

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CoJustice 6 years, 1 month ago

I defiantly had a couple of shots this morning (espresso), not that clear stuff in the glass.

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Dukebets 6 years, 1 month ago

CoJustice - Lay off the hallucinogens so early in the day. Absolutely nothing you stated makes any sense. What the hell are you spewing about OC balancing Wall's budget? Did you forget that OC has its own worthless police department? In fact, if what you said was true, OC would be much better off. Half the cost and 5 times the patrol.

By the way, Wall is not id.

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rsssco 6 years, 1 month ago

Better check the expiration date on the espresso beans. Maybe they fermented.

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424now 6 years, 1 month ago

LAUGH OUT FRIKKEN LOUD!

Now that's entertainment!

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rsssco 6 years, 1 month ago

It worries me that he drinks his coffee defiantly. Seems so confrontational. I ususally try to sip and enjoy my coffee. Not get all defiant with it. Then again. Maybe thems some mean beans.

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SilverSpoon 6 years, 1 month ago

Have you ever had a boss you didn't like? Resigning is a great way to rid yourself of the boss. Another option could be to create an embellished police report. Watery eyes, red face, nervous behavior; just go to any speech class during allegry season, and I am sure you'll observe these traits in the soberest of teens.

While wall was pulled over, didn't one of his former employee's husband take pictures with his cell phone from the side of the road?

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id04sp 6 years, 1 month ago

Believe whatever you want to, chief. It makes no difference to me.

No threat was made. Maybe you ought to brush up on the law. As for the crack about parking, there's a reason I use valet parking, and it's not because I don't want to park my own car . . .

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Y_not 6 years, 1 month ago

Though there are a lot of thing's that happened in this case that are completely incredible, the most facinating one to me is that Wall was givin a ride home after being booked and that he expected to refuse alcohol test's and get his license back. If I ever get a D.U.I. again I for one will be asking for the what has become known as "The Typical Wall Treatment". I'm no dum-dum I'll give a blood test but then I want a ride home.

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Hadleyburg_Press 6 years, 1 month ago

stoned-Wall -ing (stndW-ling) KEY

VERB: stoned-Walled , stoned-Wall-ing , stoned-Walls VERB: intr.

Informal 1) To engage in delaying tactics while inebriated; stall while drunk: "he was stoned-Walling for time in order to get a ride home without arrest." 2)To refuse to answer or cooperate while under the influence of alcohol.

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