Aspen teacher shows remorse over cocaine, DUI arrest
Ryan Summerlin February 5, 2013
ASPEN – An Aspen man arrested in December on drug-possession and drunken-driving charges told a judge Monday that he regards the incident as a “life changing” moment.
Bruce Johnson, 45, also said he plans to stay “clean and sober” and work on rebuilding the trust he had established as a community volunteer and teacher at Aspen Middle School.
“I just want to apologize to everybody affected by my poor decisions,” Johnson said.
Johnson’s attorney, Lawson Wills, also said the teacher plans to “negotiate his resignation” from the middle school in the wake of the arrest. Johnson, who still has his teaching license for the state of Colorado, has been serving a paid suspension since his arrest.
Both Johnson’s and Wills’ statements came after Johnson pleaded guilty in Pitkin County District Court to the reduced charges of cocaine possession and driving while ability impaired, which are both misdemeanors.
As part of the plea agreement, prosecutor Andrea Bryan agreed to drop two felony counts of unlawful possession of cocaine and introducing contraband in the second degree. Additionally, she dropped the charge of driving under the influence.
In turn, Judge Gail Nichols sentenced Johnson to concurrent one-year terms of unsupervised probation. She also suspended a two-day jail sentence for the drunken-driving charge and ordered Johnson to perform 24 hours of public service.
He also must undergo an alcohol evaluation and adhere to the suggestions made by the evaluator, the judge said.
Aspen police arrested Johnson early the morning of Dec. 8 after an officer clocked him driving his vehicle 49 miles per hour in a 35-mph zone on Highway 82 near Aspen Country Inn. When he was booked at Pitkin County Jail on a drunken-driving charge, a subsequent search revealed two packets in his possession, one of which tested positive for the presence of cocaine.
But prosecutor Andrea Bryan said she was willing to reduce the charges because of Johnson’s clean record before the arrest, along with his standing in the community.
“(Johnson) doesn’t have any criminal history whatsoever,” Bryan told Nicholas, adding that “he has been a very contributing member to this community, and it’s quite unfortunate he finds himself in these circumstances. He’s willing to accept responsibility and put this behind him.”
Wills noted that while Johnson “violated the trust” he had acquired as a teacher, “his offenses were not around children, did not involve children and had no impact on his work.”
“That night (of the arrest),” Wills continued, “he went to a Christmas party for a teacher and made the mistake of getting around his friends he knew from years ago and got sucked into a situation he knew he should not have been in.”
Johnson said, “I know I can’t change the past.” But he said he plans to use the incident as a way to help others and turn it into a “positive moment.”
“This is certainly a very appropriate disposition,” the judge said. “There are no (prior arrests), and you have contributed to this community. And since the arrest, you have taken the ball and run with it to address these issues.”