Judge sentences Aspen man in Audi crash
ASPEN – A district judge Monday sentenced an Aspen man to a 30-day work-release stint in Pitkin County Jail for driving under the influence when he wrecked his wife’s Audi on Castle Creek Road, severely injuring his friend’s hand.
John Patrick Francis, 31, also agreed to have his insurance carrier pay $100,000 to passenger James Dale Stockton II to help cover medical costs associated with the single-car crash Oct. 30. Additionally, Francis assured the court that he would pay another $5,000, out of pocket, to Stockton, 45, of Aspen.
Meanwhile, Stockton’s lawsuit against Francis, which accuses him of trying to flee the scene after he flipped the sedan, is pending in district court. The suit, filed by Aspen attorney Jeff Wertz, seeks more than $100,000 in damages, and accuses Francis of taking the Audi on a “rally” – or driving the car “very, very fast” – up Castle Creek Road, and against Stockton’s wishes.
Stockton did not appear at Monday’s hearing, during which time Francis expressed remorse for the incident. Francis said he has not consumed any alcohol since the crash – his blood-alcohol level registered .230, nearly three times the legal limit, after the accident. He also admitted to drinking a beer at the scene moments after the accident happened.
“In panic and fear I chose to stay there and consume alcohol,” Francis told sentencing Judge Gail Nichols. “I honestly do not know what I was thinking.”
Francis added that “I take full responsibility for my actions of that night. I take full responsibility for getting behind the wheel. That is 100 percent my fault.”
Prosecutor Arnold Mordkin lobbied for a 90- to 120-day jail sentence, contending that Francis has not accepted full responsibility for the accident. Mordkin also noted that the sentence for Francis should be consistent to the one for Carbondale woman Stephanie Chapman. In January, Nichols sentenced Chapman to concurrent county jail terms of 90 days and 120 days for felony vehicular assault and driving under the influence for a June 2010 accident in which two of her passengers were hospitalized with severe injuries.
Francis pleaded guilty to the same charges, and Nichols said she originally planned to give him a similar sentence. But, she noted, Francis seemed to be owning up to the incident more than he had in the months after the mishap.
“This is a fairly lenient sentence in my point of the view,” the judge told Francis, “because the last person got sent to jail.”
But, Nichols said, “while [Francis] took a little time to come around, he has come around.” Nichols also explained that it’s important for Francis to be on work release so that he can earn money to go toward paying off Stockton.
The judge also ordered Francis to four years of supervised probation for his guilty plea to vehicular assault, and another two years of supervised probation for his DUI conviction. Additionally, he is to perform 40 hours of public service.
While Francis has passed court-administered alcohol tests since the crash, he tested positive for THC, marijuana’s psychoactive ingredient. However, his attorney Greg Greer said Francis is a registered medical marijuana patient; even so, he has not used any pot since testing positive. Nichols said that if Francis feels a need to use marijuana for medical purposes while on probation, he first must get permission from the court.
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