Consequences of a conviction could be catastrophic to the family
Former deputy county attorney for Gunnison County Art Trezise sent a letter to the county staff after being terminated from the job by county attorney David Baumgarten. Baumgarten fired his deputy after Trezise submitted a guilty plea to a felony charge in connection with accusations he tipped off a person suspected of running a large marijuana grow operation that law enforcement personnel were soon to search his house.
“As many of you are aware, I have been charged with a number of serious crimes essentially alleging that I informed a suspect of a pending search warrant. I have done my best not to allow this to affect my job performance though, personally, it has taken a heavy toll on me and my family,” Tresize wrote. “My intention all along has been to take this matter to trial in an effort to clear my name. As with any trial, there was no guarantee as to the outcome, but I have been steadfast in my innocence and accepted that if I were convicted, at least I was afforded a chance to present my case to a Gunnison jury.
“My assumption had been that if the worse were to occur and I was found guilty, I would be subject to the expected sentence for a first-time offender: probation and up to 90 days in the county jail. Not a good outcome, but one I could live with,” he stated.
“Unfortunately, when my case was assigned to an out-of-county judge, it was given to retired Judge Terry Ruckriegle. Judge Ruckriegle is known for frequently handing very harsh sentences, often sentencing first-time offenders to many years in prison. While the assignment of Judge Ruckriegle does not change the merits of the case, it does change the risk analysis significantly. The involvement of Judge Ruckriegle placed me in the untenable position of having to choose between fighting for my reputation or risking years in prison. After much reflection, I have reached the difficult decision that I cannot allow my pride and desire for vindication to expose my wife and young children to the risk of being separated from me for years. It goes against every fiber in my being to run from a fight, and while I think my chances at trial are good, the consequences of a conviction are catastrophic. As such, today I accepted a plea offer that allows to avoid a permanent conviction of any kind.”
Trezise and his wife have three young children. In his letter to the county staff he admitted that Baumgarten had “no choice but to terminate my employment. I owe an enormous debt of gratitude to David, the County Commissioners, Matthew Birnie and many other County employees who gave me unwavering support during this dark time.”