EAGLE COUNTY - District Attorney Mark Hurlbert is taking some heat for his decision to charge hit-and-run suspect Martin Erzinger with two misdemeanors rather than a felony. Hurlbert has received over 1,000 e-mails since news broke last week that he offered the plea bargain to Erzinger for in Edwards.
There's also an online petition with more than 6,000 signatures being circulated to tell Hurlbert to keep the felony charge against Erzinger, and the case is receiving national media attention from shows like CBS's "Inside Edition." Milo and his attorney, Harold Haddon, had asked that Erzinger plead to a felony with a deferred judgment, Hurlbert said.With that, Erzinger would plead guilty to a felony, and as long as he met the conditions it would drop off his record in two to four years."They felt this was the best way for Mr. Erzinger to acknowledge the crime," Hurlbert said.Hurlbert disagrees, pointing out that Erzinger was not found to be using alcohol or drugs at the time of the accident, and that he has no criminal record.The two misdemeanor counts each carry up to a year in county jail, and he loses his drivers license for up to a year, Hurlbert said."At this point, the two misdemeanors are the best plea bargain given his lack of (criminal) history," Hurlbert said.A felony count - leaving the scene of an accident causing serious bodily injury - was on the table earlier, but it's not part of the plea agreement, Hurlbert said."We cannot renege on a plea agreement once it's offered," Hurlbert said. "The only one who can reject it is the judge."Erzinger has also told prosecutors he's willing to pay a "significant amount of restitution," Hurlbert said.Milo retained Haddon, arguably one of the most influential attorneys in the western United States. Pamela Mackey and Haddon successfully represented Kobe Bryant when the NBA star was fighting sexual assault charges in Eagle County."You see victims retain attorneys more and more," Hurlbert said. "Some could be contemplating possible civil action. Others are working to protect the victim's rights."Community Editor Lauren Glendenning contributed to this story.