Aspen man, his dog, off the hook at trial |

Aspen man, his dog, off the hook at trial

ASPEN – An Aspen man charged with letting his dog run loose was acquitted at a bench trial Wednesday after a city judge said the case lacked enough evidence.

Even so, Judge Brooke Peterson told the defendant, Gunter Schaldach, 36, of Aspen to keep his husky leashed so he doesn’t appear in court again.

“I would ask as my position as judge to take a measure … to make sure the dog, or dogs, is not loose again,” Peterson told Schaldach.

Peterson said the evidence presented at the trial did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the rogue dog belonged to Schaldach.

Police cited Schaldach on Dec. 22 for violating city law that prohibits dogs running at large, after resident Patricia Epstein told law enforcement a husky had stationed itself in front of her house.

“I was coming up the hill from work and it was the same dog I’ve seen and been terrorized by, and it was standing in my driveway,” she testified.

Epstein said she was so afraid that she needed a police escort to enter her South Mill Street residence. She testified that she did not notice a dog collar on the husky, and did not know who owned it.

Another witness, community safety officer Bobby Schafer, testified that two years earlier he had warned Schaldach’s wife about keeping an at-large dog, but did not ticket her.

The prosecution’s third witness, Leon Murray, said he ticketed Schaldach, but no one could say for sure that the dog was his.

The lack of evidence compelled Peterson to acquit Schaldach.

“There is no testimony that demonstrates to me beyond a reasonable doubt that the dog in question” was Schaldach’s pet, Peterson said during his ruling.

Schaldach, who is a professional race-car driver, did not testify and did not have an attorney. He left the hearing smiling, and hugged two females on the way out.

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