Probation for employee who crashed hotel shuttle |

Probation for employee who crashed hotel shuttle

Jason Auslander
The Aspen Times

A former front desk employee at the Inn at Aspen who wrecked the hotel shuttle while drunk in November before spitting in a cop’s eye while being arrested will spend the next two years on probation.

Justin Duke, 31, pleaded guilty to driving while ability impaired and third-degree assault in Pitkin County Court on Tuesday. Judge Erin Fernandez-Ely sentenced him to time-served in jail — he’s been incarcerated for 45 days — and ordered that he stay away from alcohol and be monitored for sobriety.

In addition, the judge suspended a yearlong jail term, which could still be imposed if Duke gets into trouble again.

“I see where my life can be headed, and I don’t want any part of that,” Duke said. “I wish I could remake the decisions I made.”

Duke was allegedly at the wheel of the Wyndham Hotel shuttle at about 2:26 a.m. Nov. 21, when it hit a High Mountain Taxi on East Hopkins Avenue in downtown Aspen, according to a police report. An Aspen police officer later found the damaged shuttle at the Inn at Aspen.

The officer also discovered an intoxicated Duke at one of the hotel’s employee-housing units. Duke fought with officers when they tried to arrest him and spit in an officer’s eye as he was being strapped into a police car.

Duke was previously convicted of driving while ability impaired in 2008 and resisting arrest in 2011, prosecutor Emily Nation said after his arrest.

Duke served two terms in the military — it was unclear where and when — and lost his job, his home and his reputation after he was arrested, said public defender Alex Haynes, Duke’s lawyer.

“It boils down to alcohol,” Haynes said. “He wants to prove this is not who he is.”

A family member said that when Duke is drunk, “things go wrong,” Haynes said. But when he’s sober, he’s a friendly, caring person, he said.

A former co-worker at Inn at Aspen told the judge that Duke was a hard worker with a “great heart.”