Combat veteran acquitted in Eagle County has a history of drunk driving charges | VailDaily.com

Combat veteran acquitted in Eagle County has a history of drunk driving charges

Artie Loredo’s four previous arrests resulted in deferred sentences

A jury took 12 minutes to acquit war veteran Artie Loredo of DUI. Loredo suffers from PTSD.
Randy Wyrick | randy@vaildaily.com

EAGLE — Prosecutors say the law prohibited them from telling a jury that an injured combat veteran had four previous arrests for alcohol-related driving charges before an Eagle County jury acquitted him last week for his fifth.

That’s “sour grapes,” Artie Loredo’s defense attorney said, pointing out that prosecutors had precious little evidence.

Loredo’s misdemeanor trial for his fifth alcohol-related driving offense — this one in Eagle County two and a half years ago — lasted one day. The jury deliberated 12 minutes before returning with a not-guilty verdict.

Loredo’s four previous arrests on alcohol-related driving charges resulted in three deferred sentences, two in Pueblo and one in El Paso County, according to court records.

Under Colorado law, in a deferred judgment case the defendant pleads guilty and is sentenced to jail. If a judge defers that sentence, and if the defendant can stay out of trouble for the length of his or her sentence, the case is dismissed.

‘This is a pattern’

Joe Kirwan, Chief Deputy District Attorney said Loredo uses his status as an injured combat veteran to gain sympathy and secure deferred sentences.

“This is a pattern,” Kirwan said.

It’s “sour grapes,” said Jim Fahrenhltz, Loredo’s defense attorney.

Last week’s trial was Loredo’s first for an alcohol-related driving charge. The others had been handled through deferred judgments and sentences, Kirwan said.

Court records indicate that Loredo was on a deferred sentence in Pueblo when he went on trial last week. If he had pleaded guilty or lost last week, he would have been sentenced as if this alcohol-related offense was his second or more.

“If you have a deferred sentence, most prosecutors won’t offer you another one. They’ll say ‘You’ve had your chance and you’re done,’” Fahrenholtz said. “We had every reason to go to trial.”

Because it would have been “prejudicial,” the jury was not allowed to see information about Loredo’s previous arrests during last week’s trial in Eagle, Kirwan said.

Fahrenholtz countered that an arrest is not the equivalent of a conviction.

In criminal cases, previous DUIs never come in during a trial unless someone does something to allow them in. Prosecutors mentioned Loredo’s military service, which opened the door to letting the jury hear about his military combat service, injuries and PTSD, Fahrenholtz said.

“Before he got out of the military, I don’t think he had any criminal record at all,” Fahrenholtz said. “Doesn’t that make it seem that what happened to him over there really did have an affect on him?”

Loredo’s military history

Loredo served 23 years in the United States military, including 11 years in combat zones. He was hit twice, once by a car bomb so powerful that it blew the Abrams tank on which he was standing 10 feet away from where it was parked. An enemy fighter shot him with an AK-47 during an ambush.

During the trial Loredo wore one of his three Bronze Star awards, a Purple Heart and a Meritorious Service Medal.

On the night of Nov. 30, 2016, Loredo was driving along I-70 through Eagle County when he was pulled over for weaving. The now-former police officer testified that he smelled alcohol on Loredo’s breath, that Loredo’s eyes were watery and glassy and his speech was slurred.

Loredo refused to submit to breath or blood tests to determine his blood alcohol level, if any. Prosecutors, therefore, did not have the results of those tests to present as evidence during Loredo’s trial.

Fahrenholtz said Loredo was the designated driver that night and was not drunk. During last week’s trial, they had planned for testimony from the passenger, who Fahrenholtz said “certainly should not have been operating a motor vehicle.”

Prosecutors said a dashcam video from the patrol vehicle was “neutral,” and did not help or hinder their case. They decided not to show it to the jury. Fahrenholtz jumped on that issue during his closing statement.

“My thought is still the same as when I said to the jury, ‘Why didn’t they play the tape?’ They handed me a not guilty verdict by not playing the recording,” Fahrenholtz said.