DUI, weapons charge hang over investigator in Aspen cocaine case
ASPEN – A former law-enforcement agent who was a member of the Drug Enforcement Administration task force that dismantled an Aspen cocaine ring last year is scheduled to answer a driving-under-the-influence charge and other offenses at a Pitkin County Court hearing later this month.
Paul Pedersen, 38, who also testified last summer that former Pitkin County Sheriff Bob Braudis and current Sheriff Joe DiSalvo were close friends with the purported leader of the drug ring, was arrested Jan. 15 by Garfield County sheriff’s deputies on Highway 6 outside of Silt, according to department records. He was cited with the misdemeanor charges of DUI and prohibited use of weapons, in addition to having an open container and failing to drive in a single lane.
“Deputies contacted a vehicle outside the city of Silt for failing to drive in a single (lane). The driver was subsequently released to a sober party and issued a summons for suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol and other charges,” says a synopsis of the arrest, which is posted on the website of the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office.
Pedersen was pulled over at 1:31 a.m., according to court records. He refused to take a roadside test and had an odor of alcohol on his breath, glassy eyes, slurred speech and an unsteady balance, according to a summons for his arrest. He took a blood-alcohol test, the results of which are not in his case file.
The Aspen Times made a formal request for the entire police report from the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office on Friday. The office’s records supervisor said the report could not be released because “we do not want to compromise the investigation the District Attorney might have currently going on.” Deputy District Attorney Richard Nedlin of Pitkin County, the lead prosecutor in the case, also would not release the report.
Pedersen’s upcoming court appearance comes at a time when, over the last year, tensions have underscored the relationship between the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office and federal law-enforcement agencies. The DEA did not inform the Sheriff’s Office of its investigation or arrests of six Aspen-area residents last May, because of what it said were “close ties” between DiSalvo and some of the suspects.
And, over the last three or four months, FBI agents have been questioning current and former Pitkin County residents about conduct at the Sheriff’s Office, DiSalvo said Friday. DiSalvo said both he and Braudis have run a clean operation and have nothing to hide.
Meanwhile, Pedersen’s case has been moved to Pitkin County Court because of the potential conflict of interest if it were handled in Garfield County, Nedlin said. Pedersen is scheduled to be arraigned on April 17.
About six weeks ago, Pedersen resigned from his full-time position as an officer with the Glenwood Springs Police Department, Police Chief Terry Wilson said Friday. A Silt resident, Pedersen also was a member of the Two Rivers Drug Enforcement Team (TRIDENT) and worked on assignment with the DEA.
Pedersen no longer works with the DEA.
“He is not on the (DEA) task force at this time,” said Schrant, the resident in charge of the DEA’s Grand Junction office.
Both Schrant and Wilson declined to provide specifics surrounding the Pedersen’s arrest.
Likewise, Pedersen’s attorney, Lawson Wills, would not comment Friday about the case, calling it a “highly sensitive matter.” Pedersen said, “I can’t answer any questions right now.”
Pedersen was among the DEA agents involved in the investigation of six local residents who were indicted in April 2011 by a federal grand jury out of Denver on cocaine-trafficking charges and arrested the following May.
It was also Pedersen, along with Schrant and another DEA official, who served Michael Cleverly with a court subpoena in July after the Woody Creek resident sent out an email revealing details about the confidential informant employed by the DEA during its investigation into the Aspen drug ring.
And a month earlier, in June 2011, Pedersen testified in Denver federal court, during a detention hearing for cocaine-trafficking suspects Wayne Alan Reid and Christopher Sheehan, that Braudis and DiSalvo were close personal friends with Reid. Pedersen said that belief was supported by evidence that showed that the former and current sheriff attended an Aspen party celebrating Reid’s 65th birthday in April 2011. At the time of the party, Reid faced cocaine-trafficking charges from an arrest out of Mesa County.
Under questioning from U.S. Attorney Michele R. Korver, Pedersen testified that the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office “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.”
Regarded by the DEA as the network’s ringleader, Reid pleaded guilty in January to one count of conspiracy to sell more than 5 kilograms of cocaine. Reid’s sentencing hearing, originally set for April 24, this week was postponed until Aug. 24. The sentencing for Sheehan, who in January pleaded guilty to conspiracy with intent to distribute a controlled substance, has been rescheduled to June 27, court records show.
The DEA, in both interviews and press material, said the cocaine network funneled an estimated 200 kilograms from Los Angeles to Aspen over the course of 15 years.
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