Carbondale vehicle owner sentenced for providing keys in DUI case | AspenTimes.com

Carbondale vehicle owner sentenced for providing keys in DUI case

Scott CondonThe Aspen TimesAspen, CO Colorado

EAGLE, Colo. – A woman accused of lending her vehicle to a drunken driver who struck and severely injured a Basalt couple last year was convicted of reckless endangerment Friday in Eagle County Court.Debra Pandoli, 52, of Carbondale, was ordered to perform 250 hours of useful public service and placed on one year of supervised probation. Eagle County Judge Katharine Sullivan told Pandoli to avoid drugs and alcohol for the year of probation and warned that she will be monitored and tested. Pandoli must also undergo an evaluation to see if she has an alcohol problem.Sullivan suspended a 180-day jail sentence. It will be reinstated if Pandoli fails to meet the other terms of her sentence.Deputy District Attorney Steve Mallory said the case should send the message that people not only have the responsibility to avoid drinking and driving, they also shouldn’t allow others to drink and drive when it is in their control.”If you aid, if you have a role to play, you will have consequences to pay,” Mallory said. There is no excuse for people in the Roaring Fork Valley to drive after drinking when they have such an effective bus system, he said.Pandoli was accused of handing her keys over to Oscar Canas Portillo while they were drinking at the El Horizonte bar in downtown Basalt the night of May 8, 2008. Canas Portillo later told authorities he was going to retrieve cocaine for himself and Pandoli when the accident occurred, according to Mallory.Canas Portillo crossed the centerline on Two Rivers Road at Emma Curve and smacked into the vehicle of Jeff Reese and Susan Grove, who were returning to Basalt from a Colorado Rockies baseball game in Denver. Reese and Grove were less than 2 miles from home when they were hit. They were both knocked unconscious and remained in comas for several weeks. They are still recovering from extensive injuries.Canas Portillo pleaded guilty to two counts of vehicular assault causing bodily injury and was sentenced in February to 12 years in prison.Reese said before Friday’s sentencing that he pressed to have a charge pursued against Pandoli. He felt she should be accountable for providing her vehicle.Pandoli previously pleaded guilty to reckless endangerment, but Friday she said she didn’t give Canas Portillo her keys.”I think there are some terrible misconceptions here,” Pandoli said. She claimed she was only guilty of leaving her keys in her vehicle, not for giving them to Canas Portillo.”I didn’t know this individual. I didn’t give him the keys,” she said.Sullivan asked Pandoli why she previously pleaded guilty to reckless endangerment if she believes she isn’t guilty.”I pled guilty because the attorney I went to wanted a $10,000 retainer,” Pandoli said, adding that she was unable to pay that fee.Canas Portillo was not accused of or arrested for stealing Pandoli’s vehicle.Sullivan said the facts that the district attorney’s office presented in the case were substantially different from Pandoli’s, and that they constituted reckless endangerment on the part of Pandoli. The charge is a misdemeanor. Pandoli was originally also charged with a traffic infraction of allowing someone without a license to drive, but that was dropped when she pleaded guilty to the more serious charge.Grove and Reese spoke at the sentencing. Reese said it was difficult to forgive Pandoli, but he would be a “hypocrite” if he didn’t. “So I forgive you and I pray for you,” Reese said.Grove said it was important for Pandoli to hear all the pain, suffering and financial hardships she and her husband have endured since May 2008. Grove said she suffered a broken back, a broken hip, broken ribs and a brain injury. Her right lower leg remains partially paralyzed. The injuries and ongoing treatment have robbed them of many of the things they loved to do, she said.”I was a ski instructor. I ran marathons. I can’t do those things now. It’s hard cleaning my house,” Grove said.Grove said Pandoli should be required to attend counseling to learn to “live her life a different way.” She also asked the judge to require Pandoli to pay restitution since their medical bills exceed $1 million.While looking at Pandoli, Grove emphasized that she and Reese spent their first wedding anniversary in the hospital together.”I’m so sorry,” Pandoli responded.After the sentencing, Grove and Reese said the sentence “seems fair” and probably more than Pandoli expected.scondon@aspentimes.com

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