DA pleads guilty to DUI

A little over a year after being arrested on suspicion of careless driving and driving under the influence of a controlled substance, District Attorney Craig Westberg entered a guilty plea in a La Plata County courtroom on Monday.

The plea, entered just moments before the matter was set for trial, revokes Westberg’s driver’s license and could ultimately result in jail time.

According to the plea agreement, provided to The SUN by the La Plata County Court, charges of careless driving and failing to report an accident were dropped in exchange for Westberg’s DUI guilty plea. The documents also state that the conviction is deferred, meaning the conviction will be wiped from the record after 18 months if Westberg stays out of trouble.

Westberg was arrested at his Durango home Oct. 10, 2007, under suspicion of driving under the influence and careless driving, after witnesses reported he struck two stationary objects with his vehicle. Westberg told authorities he had been feeling ill and had taken four Ambien sleeping pills before driving, thinking he could run an errand to town before the pills took effect.

Westberg has two previous DWAI convictions, from 1978. Although the current conviction does not prevent Westberg from serving as district attorney, Westberg has not sought re-election for office and his term ends in January.

According to an article in the May 18,1978, edition of The SUN, Westberg pleaded guilty to, “charges of driving under the influence of intoxicating liquor. The charges were filed in La Plata County Court and the case was heard by Judge Harold Moss of Grand Junction. Westberg was arrested twice, once by the State Patrol on February 9, and once by Durango City Police on April 22.”

Later that year, on July 27, 1978, The SUN reported, “District Attorney Craig Westberg received a jail sentence of 15 days and a fine of $450 as part of his sentence on two driving under the influence of alcohol convictions. Five of the days and $250 of the fine were from the February 3 charge, and $250 of the fine and 15 days in jail were from a charge filed April 22. The sentences are to be served concurrently and the time may be served in up to three different periods.” Westberg was also put under direct supervision of the probation department, required to attend an alcohol rehabilitation program and continue treatment under care of an Albuquerque psychiatrist until released by the doctor.

Westberg’s deferred sentence represents “A sweet deal for a third alcohol-related driving offense,” said Katherine Nelson, a local DUI counselor.

“Deferred sentences are usually only offered for a first offense and then, only occasionally.” Nelson went on to say, “A third offense almost always means jail time — at least. He should pay the exact same consequences as any other person.”

As of press time, Westberg had not returned calls to The SUN regarding the plea agreement.

Westberg will appear again in La Plata County Court on Dec. 3 for sentencing.

jim@pagosasun.com