ASPEN - A party celebrating the 65th birthday of Wayne Alan Reid was attended by Sheriff Joe DiSalvo and his predecessor, Bob Braudis - evidence the Drug Enforcement Administration contends supports its allegations that the two had close ties to the alleged cocaine trafficker.
That's according to statements offered Tuesday in Denver federal court from Glenwood Police Officer Paul Pedersen, a task force member with the DEA and Two Rivers Drug Enforcement Team who gave testimony in a detention hearing for both Reid and Snowmass resident Christopher Sheehan. The two were among six Aspen-area residents who were arrested May 19 on federal cocaine distribution charges.
DiSalvo and Braudis, contacted Friday about Pedersen's statements, said they did attend the April party, but their presence doesn't back the DEA's contention they were close friends with Reid - or enabled him to freely deal cocaine.
Each one said they were dining with friends at Ute City Restaurant that night before they left for the party. The word-of-mouth event was billed as the "Awaynement," in reference to the fact that Reid had been busted in Mesa County earlier in April for possession of one kilogram of cocaine. Reid was out on bond at the time of his party, which came a few weeks before the DEA swept through Pitkin County and arrested five people - including Reid - on cocaine charges.
DiSalvo said he attended the festivities, held at The Wine Spot, which is located in the Hyatt Grand Aspen, and stayed there roughly 15 minutes.
"I did not have a drink and I did see some people I knew, but I wouldn't classify them as close friends. I saw Wayne and we shook hands," DiSalvo said. "I knew he was going away for a long time and we shook hands and left."
Braudis said he went to the party and remembers that "it was snowing really hard. I went to Wayne's party to say hello and another 6 inches of snow came down and that was it, that was f---ing it."
Braudis and DiSalvo said they've known Reid for years, but the "close ties" alleged by the DEA wrongly sums up the relationship.
"Once again," DiSalvo said, "any statement that I have a close personal relationship with these people is simply and absolutely inaccurate."
Jim Schrant, resident in charge of the Grand Junction office of the DEA, and Kevin Merrill, acting special agent in charge for the Rocky Mountain region of the DEA in Denver, declined to comment about Pedersen's statements.
Following the May 19 arrests of five residents in Pitkin County (Sheehan was detained at a Dallas airport), DEA officials have said they did not inform local law-enforcement officials about the sweep because of the "close ties" Braudis and DiSalvo had with some of the suspects. DEA officials, however, have declined to elaborate on their theory.
An audio recording of the hearing, reviewed by The Aspen Times, shows that Tuesday's court proceeding lasted more than 95 minutes, when the government tried to build its case on why Reid and Sheehan should be detained without bonds.
The following is an excerpt from that hearing, during which time U.S. Attorney Michele R. Korver asks Pedersen about Reid's relationship with Braudis and DiSalvo:
Korver: Are you aware that Mr. Reid has many friends in Aspen?
Pedersen: I believe ... that he has several friends in Aspen, yes.
Korver: ... And do you know whether Mr. Reid has friends that would lead him to believe that he was safe from prosecution, that he could distribute cocaine and not have any problems with the law?
Korver: And who are those individuals?
Pedersen: It'd be the former Sheriff Bob Braudis and the current Sheriff Joe DiSalvo.
Magistrate Judge Michael E. Hegarty: What was that question?
Korver: Whether Mr. Reid had any friends in Aspen who ... [he] may believe would provide him protection from prosecution.
Hegarty: OK. How do you know that?
Pedersen: ... As being part of the Two Rivers Drug Enforcement Team and the DEA, that agency frowns upon any undercover work in their county. They do not allow DEA or TRIDENT to perform any kind of undercover work. It's just been known - for I would say decades - that Bob Braudis especially would turn the other way when that was confronted with him.
Korver: And do you know whether Mr. Reid is close personal friends with Mr. Braudis?
Pedersen: I would say yes.
Korver: Do you know whether he's close personal friends with the current sheriff?
Pedersen: Yes, he is.
Korver: And how are you aware of that?
Pedersen: On a phone call we have that is recorded, Mr. Reid states that even with charges on and over his head [in Mesa County], with being in possession of a kilogram of cocaine, Bob Braudis and Joe DiSalvo showed up at his birthday party.
Korver: And when did that birthday party occur?
Pedersen: After his arrest in Mesa County. I'm not sure when his birthday is.
DiSalvo said Pedersen's statement about the Sheriff's Office not allowing the DEA or TRIDENT into Pitkin County is not true.
"This community frowns on undercover work; it's not just this agency, this community frowns on it," he said. "And as far as we don't allow DEA or TRIDENT into Pitkin County and it's been known for decades, I have no jurisdiction over a federal agency and whether they can operate in Pitkin County or not. I've never told them they couldn't, and as a matter of fact I can't tell them they can't operate in Pitkin County. It's just another inaccurate characterization by the DEA."
Braudis, who was sheriff for 24 years until DiSalvo replaced him in January, said it's "ridiculous" that his and DiSalvo's names were brought up in a detention hearing.
"This is nuts. They go through an hour and a half of precious federal court time to deny this guy bond and put this guy from Glenwood on the stand," he said. "This is a hallucination that continues to dominate the DEA: that I or anyone else can protect these guys."
Whatever the case, Judge Hegarty ordered Reid and Sheehan, both 65, to remain in federal custody without bond because of their criminal drug histories and the fact they face long prison terms. The judge's ruling did not mention the current or former sheriff's relationship - however significant or insignificant it was - with Reid.
Reid faces one count of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute 5 kilograms or more of cocaine; six counts of distribution and possession with intent to distribute 500 grams or more of cocaine and aiding and abetting; and two counts of distribution and possession with intent to distribute a mixture and substance containing a detectable amount of cocaine and aiding and abetting.
He's represented by Greenwood Village attorney John Henry Schlie.
Sheehan faces one count of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute 5 kilos or more of cocaine; and one count of distribution and possession with intent to distribute a mixture and substance containing a detectable amount of cocaine and aiding and abetting.
Aspen lawyer Mark Samuel Rubinstein represents Sheehan.
They have both pleaded not guilty to the charges, as have the other four local defendants.
DEA officials have alleged that Aspen was the end-stop for a cocaine ring that operated out of Los Angeles and had connections to Mexican drug cartels. They claim that more than 200 kilograms were transported from Los Angeles to Aspen over the past 15 years. Reid was one of the primary players in the network, authorities have said.