The Colorado State Patrol says it is working with the state attorney general’s office to determine how to react to a federal jury’s decision to award $1 million to a municipal judge it held was wrongly arrested on a drunken-driving charge.
Jurors found Friday that trooper Cpl. Kevin P. Turner did not have probable cause to arrest John S. Wilder of Monte Vista for drunken driving or prohibited use of a weapon, and did not qualify for immunity from a lawsuit as a public employee. It was the second time the case had gone to trial. Wilder lost in 2004 but was granted a new trial. Wilder said he had tried to settle the case, unsuccessfully offering to drop the case without receiving any money if the patrol revised its arrest procedures.
“The Colorado State Patrol is shocked and disappointed in the decision reached in this case and we are working very closely with the state attorney general’s office in determining the most appropriate steps to take. The trooper involved in case, who is now a corporal, is a nine-year officer with a solid reputation,” said Maj. Jim Wolfinbarger, a State Patrol spokesman. Kristin Hubbell, spokeswoman for the state attorney general, said, “We’re going to look at our options,” Hubbell said. “However, we believe the trooper acted properly and we presented a strong case.” Turner declined to comment.
Turner stopped Wilder in November of 2001 and said the judge smelled of alcohol and his eyes were watery. In court documents the judge said he had drunk one glass of wine 10 minutes before he was stopped. The judge told the trooper that he had a handgun in the car and that he had a license to carry it.
After Wilder refused a roadside sobriety test he was arrested. He also was charged with prohibited use of a weapon because state law bans carrying a gun while drunk.