Bailiff helps defendant avoid charges

An elderly man from Dolores narrowly escaped a bench warrant for his arrest Thursday because of an alert courtroom bailiff.

“Mr. Peltier has failed to appear,” Chief District Court Judge Doug Walker told a public defender via telephone. “A bench warrant will be issued.”

Walker then attorney Kenneth Pace that he had one hour to produce his client in court. The arraignment hearing was postponed, and Walker stepped down from the bench.

A bailiff quickly informed District Attorney Will Furse that he thought the defendant was standing outside the courtroom. Charged with possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute, possession of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia, Maynard Peltier, 61, of Dolores appeared moments later.

“All rise,” a court reporter instructed as Walker returned to the bench.

Peltier’s arraignment hearing on Thursday, May 8, resumed with Pace entering a not guilty plea on his client’s behalf. A trial was scheduled for Sept. 3, and a motion’s hearing was set for July 10. Pace indicated he’d likely file a motion that would require a hearing.

“We anticipate an evidentiary hearing regarding the scope of the traffic stop,” Pace told Walker.

According to court records, Peltier was arrested on March 12. Authorities allege the defendant possessed 8 grams of methamphetamine found during a Colorado State Patrol traffic stop on U.S. 160 near Woody’s Convenience Store.

Records show a Cortez Police Department drug task force agent requested CSP to detain the defendant until a K-9 unit could arrive on scene. Peltier rejected a request by authorities to search his vehicle.

A “free air sniff” was conducted despite the defendant’s objection, and the K-9 unit alerted on the passenger door of the vehicle, providing probable cause to search the vehicle, according to court records.

In addition to meth, authorities seized $1,000 in cash, a ledger with dollar amounts, a meth pipe, digital scales, a spoon and multiple cell phones, according to court records.

On Thursday, Peltier also faced a violation of his bond condition after failing a drug test on April 10. Pace argued that his client should not face additional charges; stating Peltier had remained sober since testing positive for meth last month.

“Relapse is part of recovery,” Pace said.

Furse indicated he opposed formal action to revoke the defendant’s bond.

“We would request some form of judicial admonishment to ensure the defendant follows court orders,” Furse said.

Walker agreed, sternly instructing the defendant to avoid any drugs or alcohol while awaiting trial.

“This is not my only option,” Walker told Peltier. “If you refuse to sustain from drugs, then I can place you in jail.”