No charges for fired Aspen police officer
Aspen, CO Colorado
ASPEN ” Criminal charges will not be filed against former Aspen police officer Ron Hutchings because of a lack of physical evidence, District Attorney Martin Beeson said Tuesday.
Hutchings, 53, was fired Jan. 7 after a police sergeant noticed the smell of alcohol on his breath, prompting the administration of what District Attorney Martin Beeson said was a “preliminary breath test [PBT],” which showed Hutchings was drunk.
“PBTs are not admissible in court,” Beeson said. “They just give an officer another clue that someone might be under the influence.”
Hutchings was under suspicion by the district attorney’s office for driving under the influence and possession of a weapon while under the influence, according to Beeson. Aspen police said Hutchings drove himself to his morning shift Jan. 7 and was driven home by an officer.
Officials originally said Hutchings was given a Breathalyzer test, but a PBT is different in a legal sense, said Beeson. A Breathalyzer is an analysis device that takes an actual chemical breath sample and is now rare in many states, so many people refer to all breath-testing devices as Breathalyzers.
“A PBT is not enough to make an arrest,” Beeson said. “It’s just another clue, another indicator that this person might be under the influence of alcohol. You get these clues and you pile them on until you get enough clues to have probable cause to make an arrest.”
Sgt. Bill Linn, who administered the PBT to Hutchings, said he did not consider the criminal ramifications of the case on the morning of Jan. 7.
“In the initial situation we were approaching this as managers, as supervisors looking at an employee,” Linn said. “We were not considering it from the perspective of prosecuting a case. It did come to light later that those issues were possibilities. At first blush we hadn’t considered that he might have driven a car.”
City officials have said that on three seperate shifts, Linn suspected Ron Hutchings had been under the influence of alcohol while on duty.
The first time Linn smelled alcohol, he did not inform anyone of his suspicion, but on the second and third occasions, he notified fellow police sergeants. Sgt. Rob Fabrocini and Sgt. Brian Nichols talked with Hutchings on those days, but found no reason for further action, police said. Hutchings was not given a Breathalyzer test or other diagnostic for intoxication on those days, according to Police Chief Richard Pryor.
Hutchings was hired Aug. 21 by former Police Chief Loren Ryerson. He graduated from his three-month training period on Nov. 26 with good reviews from superiors, according to Aspen police.
Hutchings did not return a telephone message seeking comment Tuesday.
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