Wall to appeal license revocation
Routt County sheriff will appear in court today
February 13, 2008
Steamboat Springs — Routt County Sheriff Gary Wall will fight the Colorado Department of Revenue’s yearlong revocation of his driver’s license and is asking that his license be reinstated while the appeal process plays out.
Wall and his lawyer, Steamboat Springs attorney Ron Smith, have asked for a judicial review of the Department of Revenue’s decision. In his petition for review, Smith accuses the Colorado State Patrol and hearing officer Art Julian of inappropriate behavior. The petition claims Trooper Melissa Fowler had no reason to pull Wall over near the well-lit intersection of Walton Creek Road and U.S. Highway 40 on Oct. 27, 2007, for a failure to dim his headlights.
“It would have been impossible for the trooper to distinguish high beams from low beams or those of the powerful overhead street lights,” the petition states.
The State Patrol revoked Wall’s license that night because Wall refused to submit to tests of his blood alcohol level. Wall was charged with failure to dim his headlights, driving under the influence of alcohol and possession of a weapon while under the influence of alcohol.
Wall appealed the loss of his driver’s license to the Department of Revenue and was issued a temporary license, but Julian upheld the revocation in December 2007. Julian rejected Wall’s claims that troopers did not have probable cause to request a test.
Julian based part of his decision on State Patrol reports that Wall was unsteady on his feet when he exited his county-owned vehicle. But Smith claims any observations made after Wall exited his vehicle should not be considered because the decision to arrest Wall already had been made.
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A written statement from Fowler supports Smith’s claim. She wrote that Trooper Brett Hilling – who was called to the scene and took over the investigation – told her before asking Wall to step out of his vehicle that “we would arrest Wall based on indicators of intoxication we observed.”
Smith’s petition claims that Wall had, at most, only one glass of wine at the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association celebration he attended that night before driving home. Written testimony submitted by 16 individuals on behalf of Wall supports that position. In his petition, Smith calls Julian’s preference of the troopers’ testimony “pervasive and disturbing.”
Smith also claims Julian acted inappropriately in rejecting a request for the subpoena of Sheriff’s Office Dep. Lance Eldridge, who was called to the traffic stop scene and later drove Wall and his girlfriend and passenger, Jenny Wilson, home. Smith’s petition states that Eldridge’s testimony was crucial to the defense’s claim that the strong odor of alcohol troopers observed was emanating from Wilson, not Wall. Eldridge reportedly spoke to Wilson while Wall was in Trooper Hilling’s vehicle and smelled a strong odor of alcohol coming from the car in Wall’s absence.
Wall’s appeal of the Department of Revenue’s revocation of his driver’s license is a civil matter and has no bearing on Wall’s criminal trial, which resumes at 10:30 a.m. today. Judge Cecil Wayne Williams is expected to decide whether the trial will remain in Routt County. Special prosecutor Karen Romeo has requested a venue change, citing media coverage that has been “massive, pervasive and prejudicial to both sides, but more so to the defendant.” Wall is opposing the venue change. In his response to Romeo’s motion, Smith claims venue changes can only be requested by the defense because they are for the benefit of the defendant alone. Romeo has since submitted a supplement to her motion: 120 pages of stories and reader-submitted comments on Steamboatpilot.com related to the charges against Wall.
A phone message left at Romeo’s office Tuesday was not returned. Wall and Smith have refused to discuss the case.