Beeson says refusal to release report not special treatment
Around 1:30 a.m. on Jan. 15, a Garfield County Sheriff’s deputy pulled over a tan Toyota Tundra that allegedly had strayed from its lane outside Silt.
The armed driver emanated an odor of alcohol, was unsteady on his feet and refused to take roadside sobriety tests, according to an affidavit the deputy filled out.
Paul Pedersen, 38, of Silt, then a Glenwood Springs police officer, was issued a summons for misdemeanor counts of prohibited use of a weapon and DUI, and was then released to a sober party.
Little else, such as who the sober person was and any statements Pedersen made to the deputy, is known about the traffic stop, and 9th Judicial District Attorney Martin Beeson plans to keep it that way.
Pedersen was working with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration on breaking up a Los Angeles-to-Aspen cocaine ring. His testimony in a June detention hearing for two local men — who have since pleaded guilty to federal cocaine charges — included statements about former Pitkin County Sheriff Bob Braudis and current Sheriff Joe DiSalvo.
Beeson said he is aware of Pedersen’s role in the drug busts and his statements in the hearing. But Beeson insisted that his refusal to release the entire sheriff’s office report about the former Glenwood cop’s traffic stop is not special treatment.
“Pending cases, whether they’re investigative or not, are exempt under the criminal justice section of the Colorado Open Records Act,” Beeson said Tuesday.
While the Aspen Police Department and the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office routinely release arrest reports about DUIs and other crimes in their entirety, Beeson said it is the policy of the 9th Judicial District “to not release anything to the public” about pending cases.
“We don’t want witnesses to be tainted by anything they might read in the newspapers,” he said. “More importantly, with potential jurors our release of factual, evidentiary things about cases always runs the risk that an accused will not get his constitutional right to a fair trail.”
Pedersen said in the June hearing that the DEA did not alert local law enforcement prior to the arrests of six Aspen-area residents on cocaine charges because Braudis and DiSalvo were close friends with some of those accused in the trafficking operation.
DiSalvo and Braudis vehemently denied the accusations and said they were mere acquaintances with the defendants. A wide rift remains between the DEA and local police, and the FBI has for months been questioning current and former Pitkin County Sheriff’s employees as part of an active investigation into the department.
The FBI’s questions have centered around whether the sheriff’s office has been complicit in drug activity and use, allegations that DiSalvo also has denied.
Pedersen has since resigned from the Glenwood force. Messages left with Police Chief Terry Wilson and a lieutenant about Pedersen’s tenure were not returned.
The website of the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado backs up Beeson’s statements. Criminal justice records that would normally be disclosed may be withheld if an investigation or prosecution is pending, says the webpage about document requests.
Among the few documents available are an express consent affidavit, which says that Pedersen had slurred speech and opted for a blood draw rather than a breath test, and the summons the deputy issued.
The blood draw was sent to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to determine Pedersen’s blood-alcohol content. Tanny McGinnis, Garfield County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman, said it’s unknown how long it will take to get the results back, as the health department analyzes blood in most of the state’s DUI cases.
McGinnis’ department, too, is not releasing the report, saying that once a case has been turned over to the district attorney, the decision about releasing such documents is up to that office.
A Garfield County judge disqualified himself to avoid potential conflicts of interest, according to a court filing, and the case has been transferred to Pitkin County Court. Pedersen, who was also cited for having an open container and failing to drive in a single lane, is due in court April 17.