Prosecutors will resume case against FitzGerald
Former Ouray County Sheriff Lance FitzGerald was arrested for alleged DUI late Thursday, and faces his third DUI case in four years. He was arrested by the Colorado State Patrol late Thursday night and booked into the Montrose County Jail on suspicion of DUI, no proof of insurance and weaving. Details on the arrest were not immediately available this morning.
The arrest comes after prosecutors filed a motion to proceed with his 2019 DUI case, in which FitzGerald was arrested by one of his own deputies after he reported his girlfriend at the time had hit him in the face when he was driving. She alleged he was drunk when that happened.
The motion filed in Ouray County asks the court to proceed with that case, as FitzGerald allegedly has not complied with the terms of the diversion agreement he signed back in September to avoid prosecution. If the court agrees with prosecutors, FitzGerald’s case will resume as if the agreement wasn’t formed, continuing with prosecution.
In the agreement, FitzGerald was supposed to maintain monthly contact with a diversion coordinator, pay $50 a month for supervision, do 48 hours of public service and complete an online traffic safety class.
“We pretty well lost contact in early November,” said Assistant District Attorney David Ottman. “We have no indication he’s doing what he’s supposed to be doing.”
If the court agrees with the prosecution, the case would move forward and could result in a plea agreement or court trial. FitzGerald previously indicated he wanted a jury trial.
The Sixth Judicial District Attorney’s office in Durango was appointed by the court to handle the case, as is common when prosecutors have a prior working relationship with law enforcement in a judicial district.
The decision to offer the diversion agreement to FitzGerald came after a thorough examination of the facts in the case as well as the nature of the case, according to Ottman. The goal of the program is to offer low-level offenders the chance to change their behavior and reduce the chances they will re-offend. It’s not something offered in cases with violent crimes, and is often used in traffic cases or with property crimes.
The November 2019 alleged DUI arrest, and a subsequent alcohol-fueled domestic incident in which FitzGerald and his then-girlfriend called 911 on each other while attending a statewide law enforcement convention, led to a recall effort. He was removed from office in the county’s first recall election, in which more than 90 percent of the electorate voted to remove him from office.
Though many locals urged FitzGerald to get help for his drinking issues, he refused and repeatedly said he did not have a problem.
He had a previous DUI arrest by the Colorado State Patrol in 2017, when he was working as a deputy for Ridgway Marshal’s Office. That case was never prosecuted and FitzGerald was elected sheriff by a margin of 11 votes in the November 2018 election.