Steamboat Springs Former Routt County Sheriff Gary Wall was arrested Thursday afternoon on suspicion of driving under the influence.
Wall was booked into Routt County Jail by the Colorado State Patrol, the same law enforcement agency that arrested him on suspicion of a similar offense during his one term in office. Wall disputed that arrest and fought the charges in court, where he eventually was found guilty of the lesser charge of driving while ability impaired, or DWAI, by a jury of his peers.
Thursday's arrest came just before 5 p.m. when State Patrol Trooper G. Sampson said he noticed a gray Lexus stuck in a snowbank on the westbound side of U.S. Highway 40. In an arrest affidavit filed with Routt County Court, Sampson testified the driver of the Lexus, later identified as Wall, said he was going to turn right onto Routt County Road 42 when he went off the side of the road and his vehicle became stuck. Wall told Sampson a friend of his was coming with a truck to pull out his car.
"I noticed at this time that the driver's face appeared flushed and his eyes were watery and pinkish and there was the moderate to strong odor of an unknown alcoholic beverage coming from his breath as he spoke," Sampson wrote in his arrest affidavit.
Wall told Sampson he had drunk one beer about three hours earlier. Sampson testified that he asked for Wall's consent to perform a voluntary roadside sobriety test and that Wall responded, "We don't need to do those."
Sampson subsequently arrested Wall on suspicion of DUI and displaying expired license plates. Wall's vehicle was towed, and he was taken to Yampa Valley Medical Center, where he submitted to a blood draw. He then was transported to Routt County Jail. Wall bonded out of jail Thursday evening.
A cell phone message left for Wall on Friday was not returned.
Wall's 2008 jury trial stemmed from an Oct. 27, 2007, incident in which a State Patrol trooper pulled Wall over at U.S. Highway 40 and Walton Creek Road for failure to dim his headlights. Wall was subsequently charged with that traffic violation, a weapons violation and suspicion of DUI. It is against the law to be in possession of a firearm while under the influence of alcohol.
Wall contended he drank only one glass of red wine and conveyed his belief that there was a "bounty on his head" and a calculated effort to frame him for DUI. Because he refused to submit to blood-alcohol level tests, Wall's driver's license was suspended for one year.
"I knew that I was a target," Wall testified in court, adding that many people had warned him of such an effort even before he was elected to office. "It was common knowledge among my officers that I needed to be careful. My officers told me, 'Gary, you better be careful.'"
Some of the most damaging testimony at trial came from the Sheriff's Office deputy who drove Wall and his wife home that evening. Then-Deputy Lance Eldridge testified that Wall appeared to be drunk that night and, based on his observations of the sheriff, said he would have arrested Wall for DUI.
Wall eventually was sentenced to a year of unsupervised probation, 36 hours of community service, and 12 hours of alcohol education and therapy, and he was ordered to pay fines and fees totaling $816. He also was sentenced to 60 days in jail, but that sentence was suspended in its entirety.
Wall subsequently lost re-election in November 2010 to current Sheriff Garrett Wiggins.
To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247 or email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com