Aspen jury ready to start deliberations in illegal gun trial
ASPEN – A jury likely will begin deliberations Thursday in the trial of a former Aspen school bus driver accused of unlawfully carrying a weapon on school grounds.
On Wednesday, both the prosecution and defense rested their cases. They will offer closing arguments today in the case of Stephane M. Peltier, who was arrested May 21 for having a rifle in the trunk of his vehicle, which was parked by the school bus barn at the time of the incident.
Peltier, 59, testified Wednesday, telling the 12-member jury that he bought the gun May 20 for protection and to go hunting with his son.
Nervous at times and emotional at others, Peltier said he had been living in his Volkswagen Sirocco since May. He said he couldn’t afford to live on free-market housing, and that he was not eligible for affordable housing because of his employment status.
Peltier was a part-time school bus driver at the time, earning approximately $1,200 a month.
Peltier conceded that he lied to Aspen School District Superintendent Diana Sirko and Fred Brooks, transportation director, when they confronted him about the gun on May 21. The two learned about the gun when a carpenter, who had been working on the campus at the time, was shown the rifle May 20. The carpenter later told Sirko and Brooks.
Peltier showed the carpenter the gun when the carpenter was bickering about an ex-lover of his. The carpenter, who contacted police May 21, reportedly told officials that Peltier said he would shoot the ex if the carpenter wanted him to.
Peltier denied that while on the stand.
“Did you ever offer to shoot [his] his ex-wife or girlfriend?” asked Stephen McCrohan, Peltier’s public defender.
“No sir,” he said.
During his testimony Peltier said he was a soldier in the French army from 1968-73, which led prosecutor Richard Nedlin to press Peltier about his shooting experience. Peltier said he learned to shoot paper targets from as far away as three-fourths of a mile, but repeatedly said the only reason he had the rifle was for protection from people and bears, hunting and camaraderie with his son.
He also said he was not aware that firearms are not allowed on the school grounds, but maintained that because his home was his Volkswagen, all of his belongings were stored there.
“I had it to protect myself, go hunting, and be with my son,” he said.
During Monday’s opening arguments, McCrohan said it was Peltier’s constitutional right to bear arms in his home, which happened to be a car.
Brooks, the transportation director, told a reporter Peltier was one of his most dependable employees, and he would hire him again.
If convicted of the class-six felony of unlawfully carrying a weapon on school grounds, Peltier faces to 18 months in prison. Peltier had lived in the Roaring Fork Valley for the last 30 years before moving to Florida last summer.